The MPCA is committed to engaging broadly with the public and ensuring that residents affected by its decisions have a voice in its processes. The public is encouraged to participate in the decisions made by the agency, from how to use Volkswagen-settlement funds to reduce air pollution to how to address contaminated sediments in the Duluth harbor.
A primary way that the MPCA solicits public engagement is through public notices. The agency issues one or more public notices during many of its decision-making processes. Issuing a public notice means a draft of the decision document(s) is made available for public review and anyone is invited to comment on it within the comment period, typically 30 days. MPCA staff review all comments and determine if the information submitted warrants making changes to the draft document. Most MPCA public notices are related to issuing permits, developing rules, water quality protection strategies, and environmental review of projects, though public notices are part of other agency decisions, too.
See the public notices and commenting page for current opportunities to provide input:
In general, the MPCA's focus is to ensure that the facilities and projects we review can comply with environmental laws and that any remedies and rules we propose can maintain or improve environmental conditions. To make an impact on the process, comments from the public must address these questions.
Comments are not votes; approval of a project, permit, or report is not based on the number of comments for or against it. Approval depends on whether a project meets the standards set in Minnesota law for that type of project. The agency isn't authorized to act on opinions or unsupported claims. However, effective comments that include actionable information and address the proposal's environmental effects can and do improve the agency's final decisions.
Effective comments include:
- Specific actions for the agency to take
- Specific data and sources
- Specific effects of the decision
- New or unknown information
The MPCA issues permits to clearly indicate how a facility must be built or operated to comply with air, water, or land pollution regulations. Permits may cover the design and construction of a facility or its ongoing operations.
In general, when someone applies for an MPCA permit, the agency reviews the application and determines what limits will be placed on the organization’s activities, and develops the permit and supporting documents. The MPCA will often work with permittees to address their compliance challenges, using the agency's flexible permitting options.
The MPCA will post most permits publicly so that anyone can review and comment on them before the permits are issued. Permits usually have to be renewed every few years, which again includes soliciting public input. Learn more about the goals of each permitting program:
- Air permitting: Guide for residents
- Water permitting: Guide for residents
- Land and waste permits and regulation: Guide for residents
Use What's in my Neighborhood to find facilities near you that have applied for or received MPCA permits and registrations.
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’s Environmental Quality Board oversees environmental review in the state.
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.
Visit EQB's guidance for citizens webpage for more information and to see a map of projects undergoing environmental review in your community.
Environmental laws are established by the Minnesota Legislature and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and are incorporated into Minnesota rules when appropriate. The MPCA also writes rules related to its work to protect state resources. The agency rulemaking process is governed by the Minnesota Administrative Procedures Act.
MPCA rulemaking currently in progress:
The rulemaking process provides multiple opportunities for public involvement:
- Request for comment published: The request for comment is legal notice of the intent to begin rulemaking and outlines the agency's ideas for the rulemaking. Commenters can provide information that may change the scope of the project, affect its implementation, or help shape the rule. Draft rule language is typically not available at this point.
- Rule development: The MPCA creates draft rule language and, depending on the nature of the rulemaking, may publish it at this stage so people can review and comment on it. The agency may also hold public meetings to provide information and gather input.
- Notice of intent to adopt rules published: The MPCA provides a draft rule and Statement of Need and Reasonableness for review and comment. This is the final opportunity for public input if no hearing is held.
- Public hearing: Hearings are not required for rulemaking, but if held, they allow the agency to present its case and members of the public to testify or submit written testimony before an administrative law judge. The public can also submit comments and information after the hearing for a period of time determined by the judge. Commenters can also rebut comments made at the hearing in the five days after the close of the post-hearing comment period. No new information can be submitted during the rebuttal period.
Sign up with GovDelivery to be notified of new rulemakings and participation opportunities in current rulemaking. If you are unable to receive electronic notices, contact the contact person identified in the Public Rulemaking Docket.
Learn more about our current rulemaking projects:
The MPCA monitors water quality in all 80 watersheds in the state on a 10-year cycle. After lakes and rivers are monitored and assessed, the MPCA issues reports on their condition. One is the total maximum daily load (TMDL) report, which identifies the maximum amount of a pollutant a body of water can receive without violating water quality standards. Another is the watershed restoration and protection strategies (WRAPS) report, which provides strategies for restoring impaired waters and protecting those with good water quality.
The reports call for changes in watersheds and communities that will reduce levels of phosphorus, sediment, bacteria, and other pollutants in lakes and rivers. The changes may involve stricter requirements for wastewater facilities, businesses, cities, and other entities with water permits. In addition, landowners, residents, and other unregulated parties may be asked to make changes that would reduce erosion, retain water on yards and fields, and otherwise contribute to improved water quality. So it's critical that concerned stakeholders have an opportunity to provide input on the reports.
The MPCA works with local partners in both the gathering of water quality data and in developing remedies for waters that don't meet standards. Draft TMDL and WRAPS reports go through extensive technical reviews and are put on public notice before the MPCA submits them to the EPA for final approval. If substantial changes are made to the draft report as a result of public comment, it will go on public notice a second time.
See current water-quality reports available for comment on the Total maximum daily load projects page.
- Commenting on air permits — Twenty-four videos from MPCA and U.S. EPA workshops on how to create actionable comments on air permits