The Minnesota Environmental Review (ER) Program is required by Minnesota Statute 116D (Environmental Policy) and Minnesota Rules 4410 (Environmental Review) when a proposed development project has the potential for significant environmental impacts, and which exceeds certain thresholds. This ER is conducted by the Responsible Governmental Unit (RGU). Minnesota Rules 4410 (Environmental Review) defines the content and scope of review, as well as the process and timeline for its completion.
The ER takes place prior to the permitting processes so that potential environmental impacts may be identified and provided to the decision makers.
ER documents may be presented in various forms:
- Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW): Provides a brief analysis and overview of the potential environmental impacts of a specific project and to help the RGU determine if an EIS is necessary. Of the three environmental review documents, EAWs are usually the shortest at 15-50 pages. The EAW consists of a list of 20 questions and is meant to set out the basic facts of the project’s environmental impacts. The EAW is not meant to approve or deny a project, but is a source of information to guide other approvals and permitting decisions.
- Citizen Petition: The opportunity for a group of citizens to petition the need for an EAW if a project does not meet a mandatory category threshold and is not exempt.
- Environmental Impact Statement (EIS): A detailed analysis of the key environmental, social, and economic issues that are likely to result from the project. The initial steps of the EIS process, the scoping EAW and draft decision document, start with a questionnaire much like an EAW and identifies the concepts in an EIS. The EIS also examines if there are alternative project designs or locations that would result in fewer environmental impacts.
- Alternative Urban Areawide Review (AUAR): The AUAR is a planning tool that local governments can use to understand how different development scenarios will affect the environment of their community. It is a way of performing an environmental analysis in advance, before major development occurs in an area. It also is a way to use the information from the analysis to guide local planning and zoning decisions.
For more information about the environmental review process, thresholds that trigger a mandatory environmental review or for the forms, please see the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board’s website.