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Eva Clayton, president of the Nisga'a Lisims Government, speaks at the Nisga'a Nation, in Laxgalts'ap, B.C., on Sept. 29. The Nisga’a Nation, Western LNG and a group of natural gas producers called Rockies LNG are partners in their proposed Ksi Lisims LNG project near Gitlaxt’aamiks, B.C.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

An Indigenous-backed project seeking to export liquefied natural gas has signed a deal to support TC Energy Corp.’s TRP-T pipeline plans in northern British Columbia, leaving Enbridge Inc.’s ENB-T competing route in limbo.

The Nisga’a Nation, Western LNG and a group of natural gas producers called Rockies LNG are partners in their proposed Ksi Lisims LNG project near Gitlaxt’aamiks, which is home to the Nisga’a Lisims government led by elected president Eva Clayton.

Calgary-based TC Energy has been hired to work on revised designs for the planned Prince Rupert Gas Transmission (PRGT) pipeline, according to documents filed by Ksi Lisims this week to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The filings are part of an application to obtain an environmental assessment certificate.

The PRGT route was originally intended to stretch nearly 900 kilometres from northeast B.C. to Lelu Island near Prince Rupert, B.C., and supply natural gas to Pacific NorthWest LNG. But Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas cancelled the Pacific NorthWest LNG joint venture in 2017.

Revisions need to be made to shorten the route so that natural gas would be transported from northeast B.C. to a site at Wil Milit on Pearse Island on the West Coast.

Ksi Lisims said its agreement with TC Energy calls for PRGT “to preserve the regulatory permits, prepare amendments for a potential delivery point to the site and develop work plans for the next phase.”

The decision by Ksi Lisims to sign the contract with TC Energy means Enbridge’s proposed Westcoast Connector Gas Transmission pipeline venture faces an uncertain future.

Enbridge spokesperson Jesse Semko said in a statement on Thursday that Westcoast Connector will continue to do work on its pipeline route. “That work includes discussing this proposed project with Indigenous groups, commercial partners and other stakeholders while simultaneously ensuring alignment with the B.C. government’s emission reduction, climate change and hydrogen strategy,” he said.

Westcoast Connector and PRGT initially received their environmental assessment certificates in 2014, and won approval for five-year extensions in 2019, giving them until Nov. 25, 2024, to “substantially start” pipeline construction.

“TC Energy would be responsible for obtaining any additional regulatory approvals, as well as potentially constructing, operating and owning this pipeline,” Ksi Lisims told the B.C. regulator.

Rockies LNG, whose president is Charlotte Raggett, is based in Calgary. Members of the group of gas producers are Birchcliff Energy Ltd., Advantage Oil & Gas Ltd., Peyto Exploration & Development Corp., NuVista Energy Ltd., Paramount Resources Ltd., Ovintiv Inc., Crescent Point Energy Corp. and Tourmaline Oil Corp., which announced this week that it will be acquiring another Rockies member, Bonavista Energy Corp.

The Nisga’a Nation, which signed a treaty in 1998, is welcoming the regulatory application by Ksi Lisims.

In March, the B.C. government introduced new environmental standards for LNG projects in a bid to spur net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030.

“We’re proud to see our net-zero project take another step forward,” Ms. Clayton said in a statement. “Ksi Lisims LNG is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our people to build prosperity and economic independence.”

Ksi Lisims plans to use two floating facilities to produce LNG, with hydroelectricity powering motors for compressors in the liquefaction process. The project would then deploy other vessels to ship LNG to Asia, starting exports by early 2028.

“Ksi Lisims LNG will be one of the most significant Indigenous-supported industrial developments in Canadian history. The project is an example of economic reconciliation in action,” Ksi Lisims spokesperson Rebecca Scott said in a statement.

But climate activist organizations say the focus should be on renewable energy, not on fossil fuels such as natural gas and LNG. The David Suzuki Foundation and the Pembina Institute published separate studies in May that issued climate warnings about looming LNG exports from B.C.

A neighbouring First Nation, the Lax Kw’alaams, expressed doubts last year that Ksi Lisims could meet its goal of net-zero emissions. The Lax Kw’alaams band council opposes the Nisga’a-backed venture.

A portion of the proposed route for PRGT would cross the Gitxsan Nation’s unceded traditional territory.

“We appreciate the opportunity to explore the viability of this important project and will continue our engagement efforts with Indigenous and community partners as we progress discussions in this initial phase,” TC Energy spokesperson Suzanne Wilton said in an e-mail.

While revised route designs will be shorter than originally planned, PRGT would still be longer than the contentious Coastal GasLink pipeline project to be operated by TC Energy.

Coastal GasLink will be supplying the Shell PLC-led LNG Canada joint venture in Kitimat, B.C., where exports of natural gas in liquid form to Asia are slated to begin in mid-2025.

Coastal GasLink’s construction is 98 per cent completed. A group of Wet’suwet’en Nation hereditary chiefs has led a campaign to oppose Coastal GasLink, with 28 per cent of the route crossing the Wet’suwet’en’s unceded traditional territory. Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say they have jurisdiction over that territory.

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