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Bangor Hydro to Sell Its 50% Share of Bangor Gas

Bangor Hydro to Sell Its 50% Share of Bangor Gas

Bangor Hydro-Electric Co. announced plans to sell its 50% stake in Bangor Gas, the recently formed local distribution company that will deliver Sable Island gas to retail customers in the state of Maine once the Maritimes pipeline begins service this winter. Sempra Energy owns the other half of the company, which was formed in 1997 to distribute gas production to customers in and around Bangor and other cities in Maine.

"Our value to the venture has been in our knowledge of the local area and the regulatory processes," said Robert S. Briggs, president of Bangor Hydro. "Now, Bangor Gas is up and running with all the necessary approvals and with its own identity. We think it's an appropriate time for us to sell our interest and focus on our core business as an electric utility."

Briggs said the company's capital investment has been minimal but is about to increase sharply given the need to install a significant amount of distribution pipe. That money, however, would be better invested in Bangor Hydro's core electric transmission and distribution business, he said. Electric companies in Maine are in the midst of implementing Maine's comprehensive electric utility restructuring law, which takes full effect March 1. Bangor Hydro is a small electric utility serving 192,000 people and is a member of the New England Power Pool.

"We have come to realize that we have to devote all of our energies and resources to our core business," said Briggs. "Counting our predecessor companies, we've been doing this work for over a hundred years, and the change we are adapting to is the most significant event in our history. It demands all of our attention in order to do it right."

He added that the decision was not a reflection on the status or performance of Bangor Gas, which is diligently installing pipe in preparation for initial service in November 2000. The Maine LDC has about 37 miles of pipeline installed.

Briggs said the company has not yet lined up a buyer for its stake in the LDC and has no deadline for a sale. A Sempra Energy spokeswoman said the company is considering buying Bangor Hydro's stake but has not made a decision yet. She added that the sale does not change Sempra's plans for the Maine LDC, which is moving along as planned.

Rocco Canonica

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