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Petronas-led Pacific NorthWest LNG project. Pacific NorthWest LNG is proposing to build an LNG export terminal on Lelu Island. Lelu Island is in foreground in this photo in northwestern British Columbia.

Pacific NorthWest LNG has filed its environmental impact statement with regulators in a crucial step toward making a final investment decision on the multibillion-dollar liquefied natural gas project.

Pacific NorthWest, which is led by Malaysia's state-owned Petronas, said Friday that its filing with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and B.C. Environmental Assessment Office is a crucial part of the regulatory process.

"This marks a renewed round of consultation and feedback from all interested parties on our proposal and I encourage participation in this rigorous environmental review," Pacific NorthWest president Greg Kist said in a statement.

Pacific NorthWest's design changes include raising the height of the Lelu Island bridge, a tree and vegetation buffer and covered LED lighting at the planned LNG export terminal to be built at Lelu Island, near Prince Rupert in northwestern British Columbia.

The proposed location of the main flare stack has been changed to reduce the visual impact for Port Edward residents.

Petronas has an 87-per-cent stake in Pacific NorthWest, while Japan Petroleum Exploration (Japex) holds 10 per cent and Petroleum Brunei owns 3 per cent. Japex and Petroleum Brunei have also agreed to sign long-term contracts to buy LNG. Petronas has lined up two new Asian partners to help absorb the enormous capital costs and also secure long-term buyers for LNG.

Federal and B.C. regulators, as well as First Nations, will examine the environmental impact statement. As part of the public comment period, Pacific NorthWest will conduct an open house this spring in Prince Rupert and another in nearby Port Edward.

Mr. Kist said the B.C. LNG joint venture implemented many design changes after hearing last year from local residents, and more consultation in the months ahead will lead to a better export terminal.

Pacific NorthWest plans to make its decision on whether to forge ahead with the LNG project by the end of this year. The $36-billion budget includes $6.7-billion in pipeline projects, nearly $11-billion for the export plant at Lelu Island, Petronas's $5.2-billion acquisition of Progress Energy Canada in 2012 and more than $2-billion annually from 2013 through 2018 on northeast B.C. natural gas development projects.

There are a dozen B.C. LNG projects vying to become reality, though industry analysts caution that huge hurdles remain.