Minnesota Environmental Review


Last fall, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton issued Executive Order 11-32 which directed the Environmental Quality Board (“EQB”) to evaluate and make recommendations: (1) on how to improve environmental review; and (2) for improved environmental governance and coordination.

Last week the EQB issued its recommendations to the Governor.

To improve environmental review, the EQB recommended the following six priority actions be implemented:

  1. Strengthen EQB capacity for oversight and assistance in implementation of environmental review.
  2. Develop a better system of making information available.
  3. Expand the use of Alternative Urban Areawide Review (“AUAR”) or AUAR-like alternative review processes.
  4. Develop a screening tool for Environmental Assessment Worksheet (“EAW”) development and early coordination process.
  5. Develop an easier process for Responsible Government Unit (“RGU”) re-designation.
  6. Revise EAW to consider broader issues or effects.

To improve environmental governance and coordination, the EQB made the following recommendations for itself and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (“MPCA”). The EQB concluded that the EQB should:

  1. continue to exist, but should be revitalized and refocused as described below; and
  2. focus on three critical functions: (a) strategic planning and interagency coordination on environmental issues; (b) environmental review oversight and improvement; and (c) public access to environmental review information.

For the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (“MPCA”), the EQB recommended:

  1. no major changes should be made to the role of the MPCA Commissioner and the MPCA Citizens’ Board in bringing permits and environmental review documents to the Citizens’ Board for decision; and
  2. the MPCA should evaluate and recommend specific changes to the MPCA Citizens’ Board process and the environmental review process including: 1) automatic triggers that bring projects before the Board for decision; 2) timeliness of submittal of materials to the Board for inclusion into the record; and 3) review of mandatory category thresholds and environmental review program improvements currently underway.

The EQB stated that additional resources will be needed to implement these recommendations.