Consultation and cooperation with First Nations is a priority in one of the largest crude oil pipeline projects ever undertaken in Canada, according to the company behind the initiative.

Today, TransCanada Pipeline laid out its plans for a $12-billion plan that will move oil from the west to refineries in the east.

The company’s chief executive officer, Russ Girling, says the Energy East pipeline is the biggest and most expensive project ever undertaken by his company.

He says it has huge benefits for Canadians from coast to coast:

“This is an historic opportunity to connect the oil resources of western Canada to the consumers of eastern Canada — creating jobs, tax revenue and energy security for all Canadians for decades to come.”

Girling says it will also end Canada’s dependence on more expensive foreign oil to meet the demands of eastern refineries.

The project involves converting a natural gas pipeline to carry crude, so most of the infrastructure is already in the ground.

Meanwhile, the company’s president of energy and oil pipelines, Alex Pourbaix, says consultations with Aboriginal communities is an important part of the process:

“We truly want their input.  In fact, over the past several weeks, we have been out in the field collecting data and engaging with Aboriginal and stakeholder groups, and I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying their advice will help us select the best possible route for this pipeline.”

In all, about 150 Aboriginal communities are along the pipeline’s route.  It crosses the very southern part of Saskatchewan from border to border.

If approved, the pipeline with have the capacity to move 1.1 million barrels of oil a day by the time it is operation in late 2017.