FALMOUTH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Gov. Paul LePage is again looking to Canada for help in reducing Maine energy costs. The governor on Thursday said he's talking with leaders in Quebec about building a natural gas pipeline to supply more gas to Maine.
Some of businesses and homes use natural gas for heat, but Gov. LePage says gas also generates 40 percent of Maine's electricity. And he says getting more gas would let Maine lower electric rate and be more competitive for business.
“Because we need it. It's critical," LePage said. "It is very critical."
LePage told a conference of natural gas businesses and supporters in Falmouth that Maine needs more gas to grow more business. “But the fact of the matter is we cannot move forward as a state without more pipeline capacity," he said.
The problem has been talked about before: there is not enough gas pipeline capacity into Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. For several years, LePage has been trying to convince those states to help finance expanded pipelines, but Massachusetts so far won't do it. So the governor is looking north instead.
“We are going to try to get Canada to work with us to get a pipeline to northern Maine into our state so that we have capacity," LePage said, "and then maybe New Hampshire and Massachusetts will have to come to us if they want natural gas."
He said doing that could also help revive the paper industry. LePage said there are new opportunities for the remaining mills, new paper products to be made. But that they cannot get needed investment unless Maine has cheaper power. And he told reporters later there is interest across the border.
Natural gas has become more controversial among environmental groups, which say burning more of it contributes to climate change. Gov. Lepage, who has not been a big supporter of alternative energy systems, said solar and wind cannot provide enough power to meet the needs of industrial users, and that more natural gas is currently the best answer.
But it’s not likely to come soon. Several gas experts told us that even with the cooperation of Quebec it could take four or five years to get a pipeline approved and built.