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Report: Petronas may move part of Pacific NorthWest LNG project

Petroliam Nasional Bhd. is considering moving part of its Pacific NorthWest LNG export project to a new site in an effort to cut costs and minimize the environmental impacts of the proposed C$36 billion facility that has faced repeated roadblocks, Bloomberg reported Dec. 28, citing "people familiar with the negotiations."

The Malaysian oil and gas giant also known as Petronas plans to transfer docking facilities to Ridley Island, which is near Lelu Island, where the liquefaction plant would still be built according to plan, the report said. The new design would remove an expensive suspension bridge from the construction plan and move operations away from an environmentally sensitive area called Flora Bank, which is a First Nations sacred site and a breeding ground for salmon.

"Pacific NorthWest LNG is conducting a total project review over the coming months," spokesman Spencer Sproule told Bloomberg. "During this time, the project is continuing to work with area First Nations, stakeholders and regulators to manage any potential impacts through mitigation measures and design optimization."

Environmentalists said the new plan would be a positive step toward addressing their concerns about the project, but Petronas could do better than modifying part of the plan. "The ideal situation is if they move from Lelu Island altogether," Greg Knox, executive director of the SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, told Bloomberg.

Gitanyow Nation Hereditary Chief Glen Williams agreed that moving the entire project to Ridley Island "would be ideal at this point," according to a Financial Post report. Williams said he has not heard from Pacific NorthWest about the possible changes but would welcome a discussion.

With the First Nations groups involved still awaiting a formal proposal from Petronas, the project also seems to be "leaving some key aboriginal groups out of these discussions again," Knox said. His group and the Gitanyow and Gitwilgyoots hereditary chiefs are among those who launched a legal battle to halt the project, claiming that the government failed to consult with them.

"I don't know if the federal government will make the company, Petronas, do any more environmental assessments for where they're planning to put it," Gitwilgyoots hereditary chief Donnie Wesley said in the Financial Post report. Still, Wesley is pushing for another full environmental assessment in light of the changes.

Petronas is in discussions with the government and other stakeholders to find out whether the new design would result in more regulatory delays, the sources told Bloomberg. The project is due to receive a final investment decision in early 2017.