Canada’s federal government has rejected an environmentalist demand to take jurisdiction from British Columbia (BC) officials who approved LNG Canada, the pioneer Pacific coast natural gas export project.

In a filing Tuesday at the National Energy Board (NEB), the Attorney General (AG) of Canada opposed the request for intervention by Mike Sawyer, a pipeline protester supported by Vancouver nonprofit watchdog West Coast Environmental Law.

Although Sawyer’s formal regulatory documents do not spell out his goal, he has aroused opposition among civic, business and native leaders that see his actions as a bid to kill the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project and its jobs and benefits for their communities.

Sawyer’s campaign focuses on Coastal GasLink (CGL), a supply line that TransCanada Corp. is building to carry up to 5 Bcf/d across 350 miles from northern gas wells to the LNG Canada terminal under construction at Kitimat.

The demand by Sawyer insists that the NEB must approve CGL because it is only an addition to TransCanada’s federally regulated cross-country Mainline and supply grid in Alberta and BC, Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL).

However, the AG said the project “is not a ‘federal undertaking.’” The LNG scheme casts TransCanada as a contractor, hired to build and operate CGL. LNG Canada’s owners control all the delivery capacity, expansion decisions and future access. TransCanada is committed to sell up to 75% ownership of CGL.

None of the LNG Canada partners have sought NGTL connections. All have kept open options to hook up to Enbridge Inc.’s rival BC network, Westcoast Energy, or to build pipelines.

 “The project is located entirely within BC, is not physically connected to NGTL and does not depend on the NGTL system for its gas,” the AG said.

“The mere fact that CGL is one of a myriad of companies under the TransCanada corporate umbrella does not mean that it is...functionally integrated to TransCanada’s other, federally regulated systems or operations.”

The BC government echoed the rejection of Sawyer’s demand for federal intervention. The province’s environmental board and the BC Oil & Gas Commission approved LNG Canada after an initial application for federal permits was referred to them by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

The NEB has given Sawyer and his lawyer 90 minutes to explain their case for asserting federal authority during hearings scheduled for May 2-3. No date has been set for a ruling.