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A TC Energy crew installs a section of the Keystone XL pipeline at the U.S.-Canada border north of Glasgow, Mt., on April 13, 2020.

The Associated Press

TC Energy Corp. says it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Canadian Indigenous communities that will allow them to pursue an ownership interest in the Keystone XL pipeline project.

The Calgary-based company says the deal was signed with Natural Law Energy, which represents four First Nations in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan.

It says a final agreement between TC Energy and Natural Law is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2020, formalizing its participation in Keystone XL.

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Keystone XL president Richard Prior says the agreement is the first of its kind for TC Energy and reflects its commitment to ensuring Indigenous groups share the pipeline’s benefits as partners. He says TC wants to expand the model for other Indigenous groups along the Keystone XL right-of-way in Canada and the United States.

In March, the company approved construction of the US$8-billion project to transport up to 830,000 barrels a day of oil from Alberta to Nebraska after the Alberta government agreed to invest about US$1.1 billion as equity and guarantee a US$4.2-billion project loan.

Its future is still in doubt, however, as Democratic candidate Joe Biden has said he would cancel the vital Keystone XL presidential permit if he is elected president in November.

“Today’s announcement is a testament to what we can accomplish when industry and Indigenous groups work together,” said Chief Alvin Francis, president of Natural Law, in a statement.

“This historic agreement is an important step for our peoples and future generations to share in the energy wealth coming from our lands and traditional territories.”

The five First Nations include the Nekaneet First Nation in Saskatchewan and the Ermineskin Cree Nation, Montana First Nation, Louis Bull Tribe and Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta.

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