Pipeline brings natural gas service to Freeport, Pownal

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FREEPORT — Pownal and Freeport could be in line to benefit from natural gas being transported from Canada and northern Maine.

With final approval expected from the Pownal Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals within a few weeks, residents, businesses and schools in Freeport and Pownal would be able to hook up to the natural gas pipeline by the fall.

Darrel Quimby, vice president of Maine Natural Gas in Brunswick, said 98 percent of the gas produced in this country comes from North America. He said natural gas is a cleaner, more cost-efficient fuel than oil or propane and costs 30 to 50 percent less than oil, and 40 to 60 percent less than propane. 

“Using natural gas will get us off foreign oil dependency, and is a step toward adjusting global warming,” he said. “It is a good transition fuel, and is beneficial to the environment.”

The company’s proposed metering and regulator station will be on Elmwood Road in Pownal. The gas pipeline will run to Verril Road, then on to Merril Road, Desert Road and along Route 1 in Freeport. The pipes will branch off from the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline.

Roy Lane, customer service representative at Maine Natural Gas, said L.L. Bean is the anchor business for the project, as was Brunswick Naval Air Station in the Mid-Coast.

“L.L. Bean is an advocate for energy efficiencies,” Lane said. “The beauty of this project is that the contract with L.L. Bean makes it possible for us to get natural gas to customers along the nine-mile route who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.”

Bean spokeswoman Carolyn Beem said the business is excited about the project finally taking place.

“The reason we initially started looking at (natural gas) was, in addition to cost savings, was because it will reduce carbon footprinting and carbon emissions,” Beem said. “That was the primary driver.”

Town Manager Dale Olmstead said Freeport signed a contract with Maine Natural Gas and plans to convert Town Hall, Public Safety and the Community Center to natural gas by September.

“This will be a huge savings for us,” Olmstead said. “The Community Center will see a savings of more than 50 percent in heating costs.”

Town Finance Director Abigail Yacoben said it will cost $17,000 to connect Town Hall and Public Safety to the gas line, and $6,000 to connect the Community Center. The funds came from the capital plan.

In addition to town buildings, the gas pipeline will allow businesses to connect along the route.

Sande Updegraph, executive director of the Freeport Economic Development Corp., said the natural gas connection will affect businesses in a very positive way.

“We are hoping to develop a business park on Desert Road by next year, and for businesses that want to be a part of that may see the natural gas connection as a selling point,” she said.

Updegraph said Route 1 south already has water, sewer and three-phase electric power – heavy-duty power used by industries. The availability of natural gas would be an additional bonus for potential business owners.

“This is a way for us to diversify our business sector,” she said. “It is a green energy source and less expensive.”

Within the first year, Quimby said L.L. Bean, Freeport’s town buildings and Regional School Unit 5 schools will be hooked up to the gas line.

“If all these buildings see a 50 percent reduction in heating costs, that money can be used to fund new programs or hire a new employee,” he said.

By 2011, Quimby said the pipeline would expand to Stonewood Drive, and available to commercial and residential customers along the route. In 2012, the company plans to continue building out to interested customers.

“More and more people see the benefit of natural gas and are interested in hooking up,” Quimby said. “I’m excited about the benefit to the state. It is a good move for Maine.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net