Maine Gov. Paul LePage said he supports natural gas and plans to meet with companies in the industry over the next few months to see how the state can expand its use.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has given regulatory approval for a five-mile pipeline that will connect a pulp mill in Baileyville to the international Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline (M&N).

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett told NGI the Republican governor plans to meet with companies before the legislature convenes in January. She said the state’s legislative session runs through April.

“His top priority with this next session will be lowering the cost of energy,” Bennett said Monday. “He will be meeting with natural gas company officials during the next few months to explore how we can get them to invest here in Maine. It’s something that will immediately help deal with the high cost of energy and we are interested in exploring that option.”

According to various media reports, LePage said Maine is too dependent on oil to heat homes and businesses and predicted that natural gas will be the cheapest source of energy for the next 10 years. He added that the state should also invest in hydropower but said natural gas could provide immediate relief to high energy costs.

“The energy alternatives here in Maine are very different from those in other states,” LePage said. “We know the cheapest source right now is coal, but that will not work here because we would have to truck it in.”

The governor also joined Woodland Pulp LLC officials in lauding the DEP’s approval of a pipeline to connect the company’s hardwood pulp mill to M&N, part of a $12 million project that is expected to save the company millions in fuel costs.

Scott Beal, spokesman for the Baileyville pulp mill, told NGI construction of the pipeline started recently and is expected to be completed by December. He said that as part of the project, the mill’s boilers and lime kiln would be converted to run on natural gas.

According to Beal, the facility used 10.3 million gallons of No. 6 oil in 2010. He declined to say how much the company would be saved in fuel costs but characterized it as “considerable.”

M&N — which traverses 685 miles and connects the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with the northeastern United States — crosses the U.S.-Canada border near Baileyville. The pipeline is a joint venture between Spectra Energy (77.53% stake), Emera Inc. (12.92%) and ExxonMobil Corp. (9.55%).

The Baileyville mill is a former Domtar Corp. facility that was purchased by Hong Kong-based International Grand Investment Corp. for $64 million in 2010.

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