Natural gas conversion company wants to dissolve

ByMarina Villeneuve, Associated Press

A Maine natural gas company that faced a $250,000 fine this year following a potentially "catastrophic" gas leak is asking the state to dissolve an affiliate.

 

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A Maine natural gas company that faced a $250,000 fine this year following a potentially "catastrophic" gas leak is asking the state to dissolve an affiliate.

On Friday, Summit Natural Gas of Maine asked the state Public Utilities Commission to dissolve Natural Gas Conversion Company, which launched in 2014 to help Mainers convert home heating systems to burn natural gas at a time of high demand.

Summit said the conversion company is "no longer consistent" with its Colorado-based parent company's "business objectives." It said the move — which requires state approval — wouldn't impact ratepayers and investors.

The company's Director of External Affairs, Lizzy Reinholt, said a new support team will directly connect Summit customers to independent contractors who perform conversions throughout Maine.

Summit said in the past three years, it has invested more than $320 million to build more than 200 miles of distribution pipe ,and this year is installing new service lines and distribution pipes throughout southern and central Maine.

The request comes at a time of low though rising crude oil prices, company-wide layoffs and regulatory scrutiny.

The company in January announced it was cutting 21 positions, including eight at Natural Gas Conversion Company.

In March, the PUC investigated a gas leak at a parking lot near an Augusta Applebee's restaurant and found "extremely serious" violations that could have caused "multiple fatalities."

Summit has been involved in "extensive discussions" with PUC staff to resolve the matter, said Derek Davidson, who leads the commission's consumer assistance and safety division.

Deliberations could be scheduled in the next few weeks, Davidson said, and the next step could include a consent agreement and having Summit pay a penalty and address safety concerns.

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