Norman Wells natural gas price hike sparks anger

Some businesses in Norman Wells, N.W.T., are upset over a price hike for natural gas in the town that would more than double their costs.

Some businesses to pay 146% more starting Nov. 1

Some businesses in Norman Wells, N.W.T. are upset over a price hike for natural gas in the town that would more than double their costs. 

The community had a meeting Wednesday night to discuss the issue and local businesses took the opportunity to vent their frustration.

Natural gas heating in Norman Wells, which is provided by Imperial Oil, is running out in the town. That means businesses and residents have to find alternative sources of heat.

Businesses were supposed to have converted this summer, but not all have.

Earlier this year, Dalkia Canada proposed providing synthetic natural gas for the community, but the town turned it down because it was too expensive​. Now businesses and residents have to find a new source on their own. 

In the meantime, Imperial Oil has more than doubled the price of natural gas for businesses in Norman Wells. Jennifer Watson, who works for Imperial Oil in Norman Wells, says the hike is meant to encourage businesses to conserve energy this winter and convert to another source of heating by next fall. 

Price hike

Companies in Norman Wells say they're doing their best to convert to other heating sources. Warren Wright, the owner of North-Wright Airways, says he knows he has to stop heating his business with natural gas. But the price hike just isn't fair — especially when he says the deadline to convert wasn't clear. 

The original plan was to have all business converted by the end of the month, but some owners say they were told differently.

"I don't think there's one commercial guy that's not trying to get off [gas]," Wright said. "This whole episode is costing our company and we just can't take those hits. Costs like that and you're going to lose an air service."

Imperial Oil says it has signed a "best-effort" contract with the town. Part of that agreement says the town will get a rebate from the oil company once everyone has switched to a different source of heat by the end of October 2014. 

Mayor Gregor Harold McGregor says he plans to split that money equally between businesses and residents of Norman Wells. 

It's not clear how much of that rebate will be given to businesses, who have to pay more for natural gas heating starting Nov. 1.

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