State lawmakers look to expand natural gas in rural communities


New legislation in Lansing would make it easier for utilities to expand access to natural gas in rural Michigan.

A state House panel will hold a hearing on the bills Tuesday.

Supporters hope it will help people keep the heat on during the cold winter months. A number of Michigan communities faced propane shortages during this past winter.

“It exacerbated the challenges and issues that we’ve seen families and farmers and small businesses have had to bear through this brutal winter,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, who also chairs the House Energy and Technology Committee.

“(This is) making sure that both we have a secure line of energy, lower cost fuel source, and help and make sure that our rural communities don’t suffer more.”

Nesbitt says House Bills 5555, 5556, and 5557 would also boost economic growth in rural areas and save people money.

The bipartisan legislation would also increase fines for companies that violate safety regulations for natural gas pipelines.

Nesbitt says the bills are not meant to promote more natural gas drilling or “fracking.”