• Minnesota Environmental Quality Board Amendments to Environmental Review Rules
  • March 10, 2010 | Author: Walter H. Rockenstein
  • Law Firm: Faegre & Benson LLP - Minneapolis Office
  • New amendments to the Minnesota Environmental Review Rule alter the thresholds for preparation of environmental reviews for projects in shoreland areas. The amendments also identify "cumulative potential effects" that must be addressed during environmental reviews and change the process for preparing alternative urban areawide reviews.

    The amendments, promulgated by the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, became effective on November 23, 2009. As a result more development projects, especially those in shoreland areas will be required to undergo environmental review and the complexity and costs of all reviews will increase.

    New Thresholds Will Trigger More EAWs and EISs

    New thresholds for the preparation of environmental assessment worksheets (EAWs) and environmental impact statements (EISs) affect residential projects outside the seven-county metropolitan area in shoreland areas and for nonmetallic mineral mining, resort, campground, RV park, and land conversion projects in shorelands statewide. This means EAWs may be required now for projects that exceed the following thresholds depending on conditions specific to the project:

    • Residential, resort, campground, and RV park projects with as few as 15 units or sites
    • Nonmetallic mineral mining projects affecting as few as 20 acres
    • Land conversions (for example, golf course development) affecting as little as 800 feet of shoreline or 5,000 square feet of shoreland area

    Higher thresholds were set for preparation of EISs.

    New Definition of Cumulative Impacts Will Increase Complexity and Costs of EAWs and EISs

    Under the old rules, EAWs, EISs and alternative urban areawide reviews (AUARs) had to address "cumulative impacts."

    The amendments add a new and detailed definition of "cumulative potential effects" to the rules and limited the use of the term "cumulative impacts." Under the amended rules, all EAWs, EISs and AUARs must analyze cumulative potential effects—which, as defined, will likely require more detailed scientific analysis and cost more money.

    New Step in AUAR Process Will Increase Time to Complete Many AUARs

    The amendments also add a public scoping step to the AUAR process when this document is used to review a specific project that would otherwise require preparation of an EIS. The public scoping step is also required if a specific project comprises 50 percent or more of the geographic area to be reviewed.

    This additional step will add to the length and cost of the AUAR process in these instances.