The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken steps to withdraw a proposal initiated by the former President Barack Obama administration that would have issued a “preemptive veto” of southwest Alaska’s Pebble Project. Northern Dynasty Minerals’ Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP), which is the owner of the project, said the “veto” would have been before it received a regulatory review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The veto would have been an option under the Clean Water Act.

“Today’s announcement means the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and permitting process for the Pebble Project currently being led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) may advance to a final Record of Decision in 2020 without the cloud of uncertainty created by EPA’s unprecedented, pre-emptive regulatory action,” said Northern Dynasty President and CEO Ron Thiessen. “The Corps expects to finalize the Pebble EIS in early 2020 and issue a final Record of Decision by the middle of next year.”

According to the PLP, this action would have killed “one of America’s most important mineral projects before a development plan was proposed or a comprehensive EIS permitting review was undertaken.”

The EPA’s proposed determination was not based on a development plan proposed by the Pebble Partnership, but on “hypothetical mining scenarios” prepared by the EPA and assessed in a scientific study known as the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA), according to the PLP.

Following hearings in the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, the BBWA was a result of “an abuse of due process and an unfortunate attempt on EPA’s part to justify its pre-determined intent to kill the Pebble Project before a development plan was proposed or a fair, science-based regulatory review was undertaken,” the company said in a statement.