MPUC staff wants evaluation of natural gas plan

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PORTLAND (AP) — The Public Utilities Commission staff doesn’t want Maine electric customers to be charged for a natural gas pipeline expansion in New England. But it’s nonetheless recommending accepting the proposal so it can be fully evaluated.

The recommendation will help the three-member PUC decide whether Maine should move ahead with an unprecedented plan to help underwrite a natural gas pipeline expansion by charging Maine consumers $75 million a year.

Supporters say the added capacity would help relieve bottlenecks in New England’s undersized pipeline system in the winter. Today, half the region’s power plants are fired by natural gas.

The Portland Press Herald (http://bit.ly/1uFaBkZ) reported that a lawyer representing some paper mills said the closing of Verso Paper’s Bucksport mill underscores the problem of high natural gas prices.

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