April 24, 2014 11:31AM
By Jesse Buchanan
Natural gas will be available to more state residents over the next ten years, but a utility company spokeswoman and municipal leaders said it is too early to say where gas lines will be added.
Last week state utility regulators approved a 10-year natural gas expansion plan estimated to bring 280,000 new customers to three energy companies including Yankee Gas, which serves Meriden, Wallingford, Southington and Cheshire.
Yankee Gas spokeswoman Tricia Taskey Modifica said it’s too early to name areas in the four towns that would have access to natural gas because of the expansion plan.
“We’re working with all the towns we serve to see if there are opportunities to expand,” Modifica said.
The state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority allowed rate increases to fund the expansion. Connecticut Natural Gas and Southern Connecticut Gas Company are the other two companies involved.
Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback said he hasn’t received information on where new gas lines would be installed.
“They’ve been saying, ‘We don’t know what we’re going to be able to do for you, but we’ll do the best we can,’” he said.
Wallingford Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. also wasn’t aware of any plans to bring natural gas to areas without access.
Modifica said Yankee Gas would attempt to coordinate gas line expansion with road repaving and will be working with municipalities on details of the 10-year plan.
The expectation of 280,000 new natural gas customers is based on “an analysis of potential customers who are on existing gas mains who we could connect and it is financially viable and customer interest is there,” Modifica said.
The plan was opposed by the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association which represents home heating oil companies. Chris Herb, association president, said the state’s approval of the expansion plan allows utility companies to pass the cost to customers.
State government is “promoting one fuel over another,” Herb said. There is no guarantee that natural gas would remain less expensive than heating oil.
Natural gas prices could rise, leaving new customers to pay for pipeline expansion and higher energy prices, Herb said.
The potential loss of 280,000 home-heating oil customers could cost the industry about 4,000 jobs, according to Herb.
Dennis Schain, state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesman, said the project was entirely funded by the utility companies and that no one would be force to switch to natural gas.
Yankee Gas , a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, said capital spending for the expansion would be $35 million next year and more than $96 million in the following two years. Southern Connecticut Gas Co. said capital spending would be $61 million in the three years, while Connecticut Natural Gas expects capital spending of about $47 million in the same period.