June 18, 2018
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Cumberland, Falmouth, Yarmouth consider natural gas proposals

By Alex Lear, The Forecaster

CUMBERLAND, Maine — Two companies have submitted proposals to extend a natural gas pipeline into Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth.

Maine Natural Gas and Summit Utilities sent proposals electronically, Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane said Monday morning. Shane solicited proposals to three companies last fall, on behalf of the three towns.

Unitil, formerly Northern Utilities, was one of the companies, but did not submit a proposal by the Jan. 25 deadline, he said.

Shane said Monday that he had not yet studied the proposals, and the other managers had yet to meet with him. The three towns may not choose a company until early March, and will “probably need some technical assistance … to fully evaluate the proposals,” he said.

He added that it would then likely take 18-24 months “to get through the regulatory process before the first pipe gets laid in the ground.”

“The proposals that were submitted are all going to be based on no investment by the towns, other than possibly … a [tax increment financing] agreement of some type,” Shane said. He said the companies have enough capital to make the project work, and that the only money expected to come from taxpayers would be in user fees.

The three towns believe a natural gas pipeline will provide less expensive heating fuel than oil. Last summer the town councils voted to allocate $15,000 for an engineering firm to explore the feasibility of the gas line extension. The potential number of users, and possible regulations, were among the factors studied.

A natural gas pipeline already runs through the western part of Cumberland, with a line pressure of about 1,500 pounds per square inch. To tap into the gas, a substation would have to be added that would reduce the pressure to 100 psi and allow a distribution line to the three towns. The substation could be built near the Cumberland Fairgrounds on Blanchard Road, and would serve as a starting point of the system.

The line could run through the center of Cumberland, to Route 1, and then north and south to Yarmouth and Falmouth. About 3.8 miles of the distribution pipeline would run through Falmouth, with 8.1 miles in Cumberland and 3.3 miles in Yarmouth.

The substation could cost about $1.5 million, and new gas main distribution piping into the towns could cost about $300,000 per mile to build, resulting in a total project cost of nearly $8 million, according to preliminary estimates.

But being able to cut heating fuel costs between 35 and 50 percent would be a significant savings, Shane said last year, noting that Cumberland was burning through more than 2,000 gallons of oil a year just to heat its schools.

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