Gauging opposition, Summit Natural Gas withdraws Midcoast pipeline plan

Tux Turkel, Portland Press Herald, Maine
·2 min read

Mar. 2—Summit Natural Gas of Maine is withdrawing plans for a $90 million expansion of service into Maine's Midcoast region, after facing opposition from environmental activists and a lack of community consensus.

The company had announced the expansion project less than a month ago, but sent a letter Tuesday to community leaders to announce its decision to halt those plans.

While the prospect of natural gas coming to the area was embraced by some municipal officials, including those in Rockport and Belfast, others questioned whether natural gas was the best choice at a time when Maine state policy favors a rapid transition to renewable energy sources.

At the core of the issue is growing, national opposition the concept that natural gas is a preferable, cleaner-burning "bridge" fuel to move from dependence on oil and coal to a future energy mix dominated by solar and wind.

Also in play was a growing campaign led by Sierra Club Maine to block what it called the fracked gas pipeline, a reference to the hydraulic fracturing process used to extract the fuel. It had begun seeking donations to organize opposition in the Midcoast and saw 276 people sign a petition over a few days.

In its letter to community leaders, Summit didn't mention the environmental group pushback, but said large infrastructure projects require regional cooperation and a collaborative political environment to be successful.

"Our proposed expansion into the Midcoast would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions, cut energy bills for businesses and families, and helped to modernize the region's energy infrastructure," said Kurt Adams, chief executive of Summit Natural Gas of Maine. "While there is strong interest in our service among residential and commercial customers and among many community leaders, it has also become clear that a consensus about the region's energy future does not currently exist among leaders across all area communities."

Adams added: "Without regional alignment on the best ways to reduce emissions and promote cleaner energy usage, we will no longer pursue plans to bring natural gas to this part of Maine."

Summit said its proposed expansion would have created more than 100 jobs, reduced energy costs for homes and businesses and cut carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 263,000 metric tons over the first five years, equivalent to taking more than 56,000 cars off the road.

This story will be updated.