Maine Natural Gas (MNG) has signed a contract with three companies to begin construction of the 12-inch diameter steel pipeline backbone of its natural gas distribution system in Augusta, ME, the Iberdrola USA subsidiary said.

"This is the next major milestone for Maine Natural Gas as it continues on the path of bringing affordable warmth to Augusta and throughout the Kennebec Valley," said Iberdrola CEO Bob Kump.

The 10.5-mile backbone pipeline, which will serve residential, commercial and institutional customers in the Augusta area, will tap the Maritimes and Northeast transmission pipeline in Windsor, ME, cross the Kennebec River, and then run on to the MaineGeneral Medical Center (MGMC) in Augusta. MNG signed a 10-year agreement last fall to supply gas to the new regional hospital, a deal MNG said could help it build its pipeline even if the state isn't a customer (see Daily GPI, Nov. 1, 2012). MNG said it has been laying pipe in the area continuously since that contract was signed.

The start of construction on the backbone pipeline is the latest volley in an ongoing battle between MNG and Summit Natural Gas of Maine to bring natural gas service to the Kennebec Valley region.

Last year, state officials selected MNG to build an 80-mile gas pipeline to Augusta and the surrounding Kennebec Valley. MNG's plan calls for a $19.3 million project, creating 40 jobs during the next two years. The decision was promptly appealed by Colorado-based Summit, which is in the process of acquiring Kennebec Valley Gas. Summit objected in part because it said its proposed pipeline would create more jobs and serve more communities (see Daily GPI, Aug. 23, 2012). The dispute has taken the two companies before a special state appeal panel and Kennebec County Superior Court (see Daily GPI, Oct. 18, 2012).

In January Maine's Public Utilities Commission approved Summit's request to provide service to customers in 17 municipalities in the Kennebec Valley region (see Daily GPI, Jan. 14).

Less than 25 miles northwest of Augusta in Androscoggin County, selectmen in Livermore Falls recently approved a resolution to support extension of natural gas service to their town. Other municipalities in the area, including Farmington, Jay and Wilton, have also approved or are considering similar motions, according to a report in the Franklin Sun Journal.

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