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Natural gas company announces plan to expand to Knox, Waldo counties

By Stephen Betts | Feb 05, 2021
This flyer was sent this week in the mail to homes in the Midcoast.

Summit Natural Gas of Maine announced Feb. 5 that it plans to extend its service into the Midcoast with a $90 million investment.

The company said in a news release Feb. 5 that its expansion to Knox and Waldo counties "will bring safe and reliable natural gas to residential and commercial customers in communities along the Route 1 corridor including, Belfast, Camden, Rockland, Rockport and Thomaston."

The company said this will allow customers to convert from oil to "cleaner burning natural gas."

“The Midcoast is one of the last commercial centers in Maine without natural gas service, which is why Summit is committed to bringing this energy option to communities along Route 1. We are very excited to help Belfast, Camden, Rockland and other towns in the region strengthen their economies while providing them with a lower emission fuel alternative," Summit’s Chief Executive Officer Kurt Adams said in the news release.

He claims over the first five years of the project, emissions will be reduced by 263,000 metric tons, which is equivalent to taking 57,000 cars off the road.”

Rockport Town Manager William Post is quoted in the news release as saying “I am pleased to learn that Summit Utilities will be bringing natural gas to the Midcoast area and especially Rockport. Summit’s extension of gas service creates a new option for economic development and for the environmentally minded. Just as businesses require a variety of fuel sources to meet their unique energy needs, folks in the Midcoast will now have an additional option for heating their homes as they see fit."

Belfast Mayor Eric Sanders is quoted in the news release as saying “On behalf of myself and the City Council, I wholeheartedly welcome Summit Natural Gas of Maine to Belfast. Summit offers a long overdue choice for Belfast residents when it comes to their energy source. From pricing to environmental benefits, this is a unique opportunity for our region."

Rockland City Manager Tom Luttrell said the company had a brief discussion with the city's economic and community development director but at that time there were no concrete plans.

Summit is offering rebates of up to $3,300 for residential and $6,600 for commercial customers to convert to natural gas.

The company said roughly 100 new jobs will be created in the Midcoast by the construction of the $90 million project.

Summit said hopes to break ground on pipeline in the fall.

Chace Jackson with Summit said Feb. 5 that in addition to running a pipeline down to the Midcoast communities, there will also need to be two regulator stations that will each sit on a half acre to one acre parcels and are used to convert the high pressure gas to lower pressure that can then be distributed to neighborhoods.

He said one station would likely be in Belfast or very close to Belfast and the other centrally located to Rockland, Thomaston, Camden and Rockport. Jackson said the regulator centers would likely be sited in an industrial or business park.

Natural gas distributors are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission. PUC spokeswoman Susan Faloon said the expansion of a natural gas line into an area not served already by natural gas does not require PUC approval. Rates for the natural gas, however, will need approval.

Service is expected to start for residential and commercial customers in late 2022 following the completion of an initial phase of the project.

By 2026, Summit hopes to have made service available to more than 6,500 customers and extended their footprint into the towns of Lincolnville and Northport.

In May 2015, Rockland Energy Center LLC., which was affiliated with Energy Management Inc. of Boston, came to the city proposing a natural gas power plant to be located at the City Hall and adjacent Public Works garage property. That plan was met by considerable opposition by the public and the company dropped its plans.

Rockland City Councilor Nate Davis, who formerly served on the city's energy committee, said he is not familiar with the plans announced by Summit but questioned whether natural gas was overall a cleaner source of energy.

Davis was among the environmentalists who gathered at the Rockland Breakwater in July 2016 to point out that natural gas should not be a bridge fuel to renewable energy sources.

He said natural gas burns cleaner than coal and oil but the extraction, transportation and storage of the fuel nullifies the benefits as a plausible bridge fuel.

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Comments (13)
Posted by: Amy Files | Feb 08, 2021 11:33

All of these comments about natural gas being green ignore the fact that to frack and distribute natural gas -- massive amounts of methane are released into the atmosphere each year.

So much methane is released that it has been argued that, when you factor that contribution to climate, that natural gas is not that much cleaner than coal (!!!).

While it's easy to ignore the issue of how our personal household decisions impact larger, less tangible global ones -- everyone should by now be aware that the Gulf of Maine is warming more than 90% faster than the rest of the world's ocean. We are seeing warmer winter temperatures impacting everything from our ability to fish, our winter culture, to the amount of ticks we have to deal with in warmer weather.

When you choose a fuel — and only choose to look at the short term impact of how it burns in your own heating system — or how much it may save you in fuel costs next year — you are contributing to the climate threats we are already facing today, whether or not you realize it.

And even if you don't care about climate change -- surely most people care about cost?

While current natural gas fuel pricing is tempting, compared to oil right now, by purchasing a whole new heating system you will be locking into those prices for the next 15–30 years. And those prices are only estimated to go up.

This is not a growing industry, but a dying one. Fracking is damaging our land and water and will be phased out. It's a generally agreed upon goal by anyone who cares about the future of our ability to live in and breath the atmosphere (that we take for granted today) that we need to stop the use of fossil fuels as abruptly as possible.

Investing in NEW fossil fuel infrastructure at this time flies in the face of that common sense.

The by far most affordable heating solution one can choose today is to install heat pumps. Add solar and your "fuel" cost drops to almost nothing. The annual operating costs are not remotely comparable in how much more affordable it is to choose the sustainable option over the dirty fracked gas one.

The best thing that our City and State could be doing for residents right now is to provide competitive rebates for heat pump systems so that folks are not tempted by the fossil fuel industry's very large rebate offer in their attempts to lure new customers over before everyone realizes that fossil fuel is no longer a sound investment for their home.

Yes -- we have some larger gas customers who currently truck the fuel in -- like Dupont. But because one industry is using a dirty fossil fuel does not make for a good argument to install pipelines that will impact everyone -- or to encourage more to do the same. As others have mentioned -- in order for customers to have access to this fuel -- EVERYONE's health, homes and safety will be impacted as it requires pipelines to run behind, along and underneath ALL of our properties, whether or not we want them there. And yes, undoubtedly this will require some eminent domain use along with disruptions in regards to the construction.

Expanding a pipeline at this point in time would not only be irresponsible, in regards to sustainability, but not fiscally responsible. And -- additionally -- it will clearly be another contentious, disruptive issue that upsets many residents as it will involve impact on all of our home's safety, quality of life and even property rights.


Posted by: THOMAS MARSHALL, JR | Feb 07, 2021 10:06

NG to residential heating applications is a less-dirty answer, as was oil a replacement for coal (which I’m finding unburned chunks are still in my yard). I’d rather see NG going to power a gas turbine for electricity within the industrial zone.  Here’s a 101 on turbine generators

Maybe we should get CMP’s insights on this.  I’d rather not be tearing up streets to lay down gas lines when power lines are already in place.  I looked into converting from an oil furnace (hot water for radiators and washing) but the power draw is substantial just for one house. For a neighborhood, CMP might have to upgrade the distribution system.  Possibly a local gas turbine generation system could enable large scale upgrades of residential heating to electric.

Posted by: ALICE A HUEMAN | Feb 07, 2021 09:05

As a millennial in this fine land of rock haven't we all been taught that fossil fuels AREN'T green? So the idea of saying they are is absolutely ridiculous! Green energy. Not gas not oil not coal not wood. Wind mills solar panels and the ocean wave machine. That's what the general public want! There are other options it's just they don't match up with consumerism. Green energy is the only way we ate gonna keep the human race around for a while longer. What would Greta do? Think about the long term future and not just the here and now.

Posted by: James York | Feb 06, 2021 22:28

  1. Natural Gas is already here, being trucked in daily to some our largest energy users.  Let's take a look at the details, demand the highest safety and effeciency standards and evaluate. Hard to imagine a cleaner fuel that takes us from #6 heating oil to 100% green fuel.  Maine is so far behind we will likely be the last to absorb the benefits of any real green technology that replaces carbon fuel.

Posted by: karen dodge | Feb 06, 2021 15:11

Not everyone in these areas have public water and public sewer. These are to costly to run to all customers in the towns listed. So you are telling me that you can run natural gas to all these homes that have  the potential of being dangerous, explosive and need more maintenance and upkeep. Towns cannot supply clean water and waste disposal that would only be beneficial the area. All the while being a whole lot less dangerous and requiring    less maintenance. Let’s work on those necessities before piping in explosive gas under our beautiful local hometowns!

Posted by: Kevin Riley | Feb 06, 2021 14:04

Ever since my family dragged me kicking a screaming out of Maine to other parts I have lived in areas where natural gas was THE fuel for heat and cooking. That is to include MA, RI, VA, TN and MD. In all that time, many decades, I remember only two home gas explosions and if memory serves they were caused by equipment neglect.
My wife and I one day want to move to Belfast and would like to have NG for cooking at least and a geothermal heat pump for HVAC.
It is safe, far less polluting than oil, wood and coal and today's gas furnaces are orders of magnitude more efficient than they were 15 years ago. So efficient that the exhaust pipes are PVC. I know, I know the expense of switching fuels, I get it.

Posted by: Kevin Riley | Feb 06, 2021 13:55


Google is your friend. A quick search returned this.

"Across the U.S. there are about 286 serious natural gas explosions per year—the type that cause over $50,000 worth of damage, severe injury, or loss of life. Between 1998 and 2017, 15 people per year on average died in incidents related to gas distribution in the U.S.Sep 4, 2019"

Posted by: Jack S Copp | Feb 06, 2021 11:22

Natural gas is the least-worst option of the available fossil fuels that our area currently depends on. If you burn anything for heat or power, there are few better choices. Oil, Propane, Kerosene, Wood, and Coal are all currently being used to heat our homes and businesses. Propane is cleaner burning, but not by much, and it too depends on storage and distribution by trucks, as do oil and kerosene. Wood is plentiful in Maine and can considered a renewable resource, but is also labor-intensive to harvest, cut, and distribute, and many are not set up or have the desire to use this fuel. And then there are the economics of natural gas. Once an area is plumbed for it (at the gas company's expense), its distribution does not rely on trucks or tanks or chainsaws. In addition, having a cheaper source of high quality fuel would be a boon to industry in this area, lowering energy costs, which will most likely create additional good-paying industrial jobs, or making current energy-intensive industries more profitable. Remember too, that companies who heretofore could not operate here may choose to build a plant if they can run it economically. The proposal of the gas company is a decent one. However, Rockland should look hard at this opportunity to get in on this proposal early. This will give them time to evaluate the offer, and maybe make some suggestions as how they want it to roll out, like where they want it to go, how it will be done, i.e., which areas will be served, who will pay to clean up and repave the streets after the pipes are buried? etc. etc. In a perfect world, we would all by now be using solar, wind or geothermal power to reduce pollution and run our energy-hungry lives, but with all the benefits that plumbed natural gas would have to Rockland, with very little or no public money, to make it available as another fuel choice, it is the least-worst option for our energy needs, economic development, and energy security for the immediate future.

Posted by: Nina Reed | Feb 06, 2021 09:52

how many neighborhood explosions with natural gas?


Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Feb 06, 2021 09:48

sssssssSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS ..... sniff sniff sniff ...... KABOOM!!!!!

Posted by: Joseph Steinberger | Feb 06, 2021 09:29

Natural gas produces 38% less CO2 than oil, 19% less than propane. The distribution system, like the electric grid, requires no trucks for delivery and no oil tanks in basements with their risk of leaks and ground contamination. Where natural gas is available for industrial and residential use, efficiency goes up, costs and pollution go down, and no one chooses to burn oil or propane. It makes no more sense to oppose or restrict the extension of natural gas to Rockland than it would to oppose the electric grid.
What is difficult is that we have local businesses that supply and deliver our oil and propane. I am a long time customer of Maritime Energy. They are good people and have served me well. I do worry about the effect this will have on them and our other oil dealers.

Posted by: Amy Files | Feb 06, 2021 08:51

Natural gas is NOT CLEAN by any measure except the very specific one of it being burned in your home.

The description of natural gas as being “clean” is a product of a VERY successful greenwashing campaign that began back in the 90's. And many people, including well-meaning environmentalists, fell for it as well as the whole "bridge" theory — that natural gas could be our bridge to lower emissions. That theory has now been thoroughly debunked and it's generally agreed that we are way past the point of a dirty "bridge" effort being helpful. But the marketing campaign worked so well that many people still believe this.

We now know that the industry is horribly polluting. Huge amounts of methane are released into the air each year in the production of fracking gas —billions of dollars worth of fuel are lost through leaks in the system. Because its extraction relies on fracking — it may not be here in Maine, but someone else's land and water are poisoned, injected with chemicals, to produce it. Methane is released in the fracking process but it is also lost throughout almost all points of production and delivery — much of the leaking occurs along the delivery pipeline itself — and the amount of leaks result in billions of dollars worth of loss each year.

If that all weren’t enough — every year there are multiple safety citations or even explosions with fatalities due to poorly maintained natural gas infrastructure. One of the larger, and more recent, local ones that most likely remember, is what happened in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, Massachusetts in 2018. You may also recall the horrible story of the Alison Canyon gas leak in 2015 and 2016, where fracked gas leaked for over 100 days. This incident displaced over 8,000 residents, having to flee the sickness (nosebleeds, respiratory problems, and dizziness) caused by the fumes.  Does that sound like a "clean" fuel? This heating fuel source is one of the most volatile, after propane—and I would hate to see anyone invest in NEW pipelines to be running through our towns and beside our homes exposing our whole community to potential accidents. 

Lastly — while natural gas is currently cheaper than gas it is not the most efficient or effective way to heat your home. Instead of spending $3-8 thousand dollars on a new system that will lock you into using another dirty fossil fuel for the next 15–30 years, that money could be better invested in weatherization, heat pumps and solar. Based on Efficiency Maine's number's on their site today, the estimated annual cost for heating with fracking gas is still more expensive than oil. And compared to fossil fuels it is ---- BY FAR --- much more affordable (and clean!) to heat your home with heat pumps. If you add solar, your $ per BTU drops down to close to nothing (not factoring in investment costs of course).


As the whole world, including our country, shifts to actual clean energy—fracking will be more limited and natural gas prices WILL ONLY RISE in the future. 

So if you are thinking about switching your fuel source—I would encourage you to look into first, tightening up your home, then secondly, if heat pumps will work for you, and lastly solar financing if you are able. The prices are now low enough that financing can often compete with your monthly electric bill. Maine offers rebates for heat pumps and the federal tax credit for solar is still substantial.

This fracking gas industry is part of the mega-rich fossil industry—but it is a dying one. They are desperate for new customers to lock into their product for the next couple of decades. Don't let them fool you. 

Please reach out to your town, City, and state representatives. Expanding fossil fuel infrastructure at this time is a short-sighted waste of investment and it is certainly NOT CLEAN.

Posted by: Rosemary P. Stuart-Libbey | Feb 06, 2021 08:14

Didn't Rockland already reject this "opportunity" some time ago? Kudos to councilor Nate Davis for questioning the process being raised again!

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