Former Defense Secretary William Cohen says the Environmental Protection Agency may have short-circuited the usual process for reviewing a permit application for a proposed Alaska gold and copper mine.

A permit for the project at the headwaters of Bristol Bay has been in limbo since February 2014, when EPA used its authority under the Clean Water Act to determine whether restrictions should be made to protect the watershed. The project’s backer, the Pebble Partnership, says the EPA should have waited to weigh the project’s environmental impact until the permit application process had begun.

On Nov. 5, Cohen told the House Science, Space and Technology Committee that a review by his firm, the Cohen Group, “has raised important questions” about EPA’s decision-making process on the project. The Oct. 5 report was funded by the Pebble Partnership, but Cohen says his conclusions are his own. The Natural Resources Defense Council says the report is full of errors and that EPA conducted “a methodical scientific review.”