Maine state utilities regulators have given approval for a Colorado-based company to build a natural gas pipeline through 17 central Maine communities. The state Public Utilities Commission on Thursday granted approval to Summit Natural Gas Tim Johnston, executive vice president of Summit Natural Gas of Maine, a subsidiary of Summit Utilities, tell the Kennebec Journal, that the permitting process has started and the company hopes to begin construction in the spring. Summit joins Maine Natural Gas, which had previously won state approval and has already begun laying pipeline in Augusta. Competition between the two companies is expected to benefit ratepayers. A utilities commission spokeswoman says the vote grants Summit unconditional authority to serve 17 municipalities in the Kennebec Valley.