The Maine House approved compromise legislation Tuesday that would scale back a proposal to restrict natural gas expansion in the state and study its use instead, but it faced bipartisan criticism.

The original legislation proposed a ban on gas companies charging ratepayers for construction and expansion of gas service mains and gas service lines beginning Feb. 1, 2025. Instead, business and residential customers that benefit from new gas mains and service lines would have been required to pay the costs.

Workers from Cianbro and Shaw Brothers install pipe on Route 88 in Cumberland Foreside in 2014. Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Environmentalists had said the measure is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and Maine’s public advocate said increased use of electric heat pumps to heat and cool buildings will reduce reliance on natural gas, leaving low-income ratepayers with higher gas prices as other customers abandon its use.

The measure drew opposition from gas utilities and their business group allies, prompting the utilities, environmentalists, consumer advocates and others to negotiate a measure calling for studies.

The groups worked out a revised bill that requires the Maine Public Utilities Commission to examine a framework for its oversight of future investments by gas utilities.

The bill also directs the Governor’s Energy Office to study the use of natural gas in meeting energy needs of the residential, commercial, institutional, industrial and power generation sectors and in employing Maine workers.


If the legislation is approved, the energy office also would study policy and regulations in other states and the role of gas infrastructure supporting the transition to a low-carbon future. And it would examine new and emerging technologies for the production, transportation, delivery and storage of natural gas.

“They worked over a month to reach a compromise,” Rep. Stanley Zeigler Jr., D-Montville, said during House debate. “I truly wondered if they could and they did.”

He defended the legislation as an effort to inform Mainers about “what our energy future looks like.”

The measure passed the House 80-67, with all but one Democrat – Rep. Scott Landry Jr. of Farmington – in favor and all Republicans opposed. It now heads to the Senate.

Rep. Sophia Warren, D-Scarborough, said the measure was “significantly watered down” from the original.

“We had an opportunity to do so much more with this bill,” she said. “There was a lack of willingness from both parties to bring this important fight in the midst of an election year and there was a lack of political will from our chief executive who purports Maine won’t wait, but here we are today.”

Her reference was to “Maine Won’t Wait,” the state’s climate plan. The governor’s office did not respond to an email seeking a response.

Rep. Steven Foster, R-Dexter, criticized the legislation as “completely unnecessary.” The Public Utilities Commission “does what this bill asks for,” he said.

“We need to transition from natural gas. However, we’re going to need natural gas and electric generation for 10, maybe 20 years before we fully do so,” he said.

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