Certain proposed projects — based on their nature, size, location, or other factors — must go through an environmental review before any required permits or approvals are issued. Minnesota Rules part 4410.4300 and 4410.4400 lists the types of projects that require environmental review. The Environmental Quality Board (EQB) oversees environmental review in Minnesota.
Environmental review is NOT an approval process; it's an information-gathering process intended to:
- Help public agencies make informed permitting and approval decisions
- Give the public access to decision makers
- Ensure public awareness and meaningful input into decision making
There are two levels of environmental review:
- Environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) — The first step in environmental review and the only step, if the MPCA Commissioner decides further review is not required.
- Environmental impact statement (EIS) — A more in-depth review. The MPCA uses the EAW, written comments, permit applications, and other relevant documents to decide whether an EIS is needed.
The MPCA Commissioner makes the final decision, documented in a Findings of Fact Conclusions of Law and Order.
The EAW and EIS describe a proposed project, its potential effects on air, land, and water resources, and ways to reduce negative environmental effects. When the review identifies unacceptable environmental impacts, the project's proposers can make changes. The information is also used to establish permit conditions that will protect our environment.
Learn more about environmental review and how to provide input on MPCA's processes:
Role of responsible government units
Responsible government units (RGUs) are the government entities, such as counties, cities, or state agencies, that are responsible for preparing the environmental review documents. For mandatory reviews, the RGU is typically listed in rule. For other cases, the EQB selects the RGU.
If an RGU or project proposer decides that a project not listed under EQB rules has the potential for significant environmental effects, the project must go through the environmental review process before it may proceed. Residents may petition the EQB to request an EAW on a project.
Does your project need environmental review?
Use this pre-screening form to determine if your project needs environmental review by the MPCA:
If you think your project requires review, request a meeting with the MPCA early in the project planning. Expect MPCA EAW process to take four to six months to complete. Controversial projects often take longer. An EIS can take one to two years.
If it’s determined environmental review is required, gather information about the project’s potential environmental effects and ways to avoid or minimize them. No permits or approvals may be issued until environmental review is complete. MPCA's environmental review and permitting staff work together to ensure consistency and coordinate public notices. Permit applications must be submitted at the same time as the draft EAW. (An exception is the construction stormwater general permit since its issuance is automated.)
- Revised Environmental Assessment Worksheet form - includes climate information (EQB)
- EAW guidelines - Preparing Environmental Assessment Worksheets
The draft EAW must include:
- A county map showing the general project location.
- A topographic map showing project boundaries.
- A site map that clearly identify existing operations/structures (if present) and the proposed operations/structures.
- A Natural Heritage Review, completed within the last year; include the concurrence letter or email from the Department of Natural Resources.
- State Historic Preservation Office’s information on nearby historic properties, completed within the last year.
- An air assessment:
- Greenhouse gas information: Greenhouse gas quantification and assessment, climate change adaptation and resilience information (EQB)
You may also need:
- Air quality modeling or an air emissions risk analysis
- Air permit applicability determination
- A DNR preliminary approval to construct a well
- Well data such as a pump test or aquifer test
- Additional information if your project is located in an area of potential concern for environmental justice
- Work with the community early in the process.
- Use plain language in your draft EAW.
- Ensure permit applications match the draft EAW.
- Be consistent in labeling structures/operations throughout the draft EAW and attachments.
- Reference all attachments in the draft EAW and put them in the order in which they appear in the draft.
- Use recently completed MPCA EAWs as an example for completing your draft EAW: Projects under MPCA review
- For information requests, such as past environmental review documents, contact MPCA's Records Management Department.