City of Augusta may ask state to toss out natural-gas bid

By Keith Edwards, Kennebec Journal
Posted Aug. 02, 2012, at 5:49 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The city may intervene in a dispute between two companies with competing natural gas pipeline proposals for the Kennebec Valley and ask the state to throw out the winning bid on a state contract and start over.

City Manager William Bridgeo has proposed, in an order going before city councilors Thursday, that the city file as an intervenor in the pending appeal. Summit Natural Gas has appealed the state’s selection of competitor Maine Natural Gas to build a natural gas pipeline from Windsor to state facilities in Augusta.

Bridgeo said the city would not be expressing a preference for either of the two firms, or even suggesting natural gas is better than other energy sources, such as oil. However, the city, according to the order, would urge the state to “redo this bid process and redo the conditions to put a stronger emphasis on the successful company building out a natural gas infrastructure” to serve the entire Kennebec Valley, not just state facilities.

Councilors will consider the order at their meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Bridgeo said intervenor status, if councilors authorize seeking it, would give the city standing to add its voice to the state’s review process. It would encourage state officials to reject the bids, start over, and issue a request for proposals specifying the winning bidder must agree to build a natural gas pipeline system throughout the Kennebec Valley.

“Being an intervenor would provide an opportunity to provide facts and opinions from your perspective to the decision-makers,” Bridgeo said Tuesday. “I don’t expect it would be anything more than an expression of the city’s concerns and a request they be taken into consideration as the state grapples with this.”

Bridgeo said in a memo to city councilors: “You would only be requesting that the state uses its purchasing power to leverage a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so as to best benefit the residents and businesses of the entire Kennebec Valley region,”

Mayor William Stokes already has written a letter to Gov. Paul LePage, urging him to intervene in the appeals process.

Summit appealed the state’s selection of a bid from Maine Natural Gas to bring a pipeline to the region, arguing the state did not give enough weight to what Summit officials said would be more job creation and financial effects from their larger proposal.

The state is scheduled to consider Summit’s appeal Aug. 14 and 15.

Bridgeo said it’s his opinion and that of other city staff members, including Finance Director Ralph St. Pierre and Development Director Michael Duguay, that the long-term economic best interests of the city and region would be well-served if the state were to redo the bid process. The state should specify that the winning bidder will be required to extend the proposed pipeline to offer natural gas to other potential users in the Kennebec Valley, he said.

Councilors on Thursday are also scheduled to do the following:

(c)2012 Kennebec Journal (Augusta, Maine)

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http://bangordailynews.com/2012/08/02/business/city-of-augusta-may-ask-state-to-toss-out-natural-gas-bid/ printed on December 19, 2014