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March 27, 2013 | last updated March 27, 2013 11:15 am

State agency proposed to expand natural gas pipelines

State lawmakers from both parties are standing behind a bill to create a new government agency that could issue bonds and designate corridors for new pipelines they say will increase natural gas supplies and, as a result, lower electricity prices.

The Portland Press Herald reported the bill proposed by Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, and Sen. John Cleveland, D-Auburn, would create the Maine Energy Cost Reduction Authority, a quasi-governmental agency.

That agency, the paper reported, could ink contracts with companies to expand pipelines in the state or to collaborate with other New England states already pursuing pipeline projects.

As proposed, the entity would have three members appointed by the governor and approved by the legislature, a structure similar to the state's Public Utilities Commission.

Fredette told the paper the goal of the new entity would be to take advantage of a "historic opportunity" presented by low natural gas prices. He said the proposed energy authority would develop a long-range plan for lowering the state's energy costs, which it would do by expanding natural gas pipelines.

Fredette told the paper the bill is designed to fit with a separate proposal aimed at tapping new gas fields in Pennsylvania and New York.

Those bills are in line with a call made by Gov. Paul LePage in his February State of the State speech, in which he said he plans to fast-track development of natural gas infrastructure in the state.

The bill was referred to the Legislature's Energy Committee Tuesday and a public hearing has not yet been scheduled.

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