11/21/2012 11:14 EST | Updated 12/13/2012 02:51 EST

Oil Sands Railway: Northern Gateway Alternative Supported By First Nations

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VALDEZ, AK - MARCH 31: A loading dock at the Valdez Terminal, at the end of the 800-mile-long Tran-Alaska Pipeline where controllers at Operations Control Center can start or stop the entire oil pipeline, is seen on March 31, 2004 near Valdez, Alaska. Fifteen years after the Exxon Valdez supertanker split open on a submerged reef and spilled 11 millions gallons of crude oil into Prince Willliam Sound on March 24, 1989, legal fights continue. Experts thought the crude would be gone by 1995 but oil still clings to rocks on once-pristine beaches where sea otters digging into relatively fresh oil are still unleashing toxins. Residents and scientists are pushing for a $100 million re-opener of the landmark $900 million civil settlement Exxon signed in 1991 to resolve environmental claims before it expires in 2006, amid fear that the Bush administration will not attempt to secure the additional $100 million. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

A B.C.-based company is proposing a way to transport oil sands crude to the West Coast -- without a pipeline.

G 7 Generations Ltd. (G7G) is floating the idea of a railway starting in Fort McMurray, Alta. that would help move product to Asian markets via Alaska.

The project has drawn support from First Nations who say the project has a better chance of gaining "social license" from communities along the route than "competing scenarios," according to a company news release.

"Studies have already demonstrated that a rail link to Alaska is a viable alternative to the oil pipelines currently being planned through British Columbia," G7G CEO Matt Vickers said.

"This approach is timely because it promises significant economic benefits to First Nations communities and all of Canada while avoiding many of the environmental risks associated with current pipeline proposals and related supertanker traffic off B.C.’s West Coast."

First Nations offering support for the project include the Heiltsuk Nation, which has shown strong opposition to the Northern Gateway, a proposed pipeline that would carry oil sands crude from the oil sands to a port in Kitimat on B.C.'s coast.

Railways also do not face the same regulatory hurdles that pipelines do, although the latter are considered more efficient.

"British Columbians' opposition to oil tanker traffic on B.C.’s coast is very strong and should not fall on deaf ears," Heiltsuk Chief Marilyn Slett said in a statement.

Investors in G7G include Tom Jackson, an actor known for his roles on "North of 60" and "Shining Time Station" and Ward Kemerer, founding director of the Independent Power Producers Association of B.C.

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