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Contesting Environmental Impact: The Norman Wells Oil Pipeline Proposal, 1980-81

Sat, March 17, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Riverside Convention Center, MR 8


In 1980, Interprovincial Pipe Line Company applied for regulatory approval from the National Energy board to construct a small diameter oil pipeline from Norman Wells, NWT to Zama, AB. This was part of a development project that would expand production at the Norman Wells oilfields and deliver crude oil to refineries in Alberta. It was also the first pipeline development proposal for the NWT following the contentious national debate over the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline in the late 1970s. Once again, a pipeline corporation sought to build a new pipeline in Denendeh, the traditional territory of the Dene Nation.
This paper will examine the assessment of the potential environmental impacts of the pipeline in 1980. Using exhibits and evidence from the initial NEB hearings on the proposal, this paper will explore the competing meanings of environmental protection and impact as IPL presented its environmental assessment report and local Dene leaders sought to challenge those findings.