Press Release: MN EQB approves adding climate impacts to state’s environmental review process
CONTACT: Sarah Horner, MCEA, email@example.com, 612-868-3024
Saint Paul, Minnesota – After years of research, public engagement, and a nearly year-long pilot project, Minnesota will finally start assessing new project proposals’ impacts to the accelerating climate crisis during the state’s environmental review process.
The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) voted unanimously Wednesday to adopt a long overdue revision to our state’s environmental review form – called an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) - that will mandate the consideration of climate pollution. The updated form includes new questions that require project proposers to report their proposals’ expected greenhouse gas emissions, ways the proposers could lower those emissions, as well as strategies proposers intend to implement to ensure their projects would comply with Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.
The change will significantly transform the state’s environmental review process, which shockingly did not previously require most projects that necessitate this review to report or consider any climate impacts, even though projects are required to report less severe impacts like noise or odor.
This revision does not apply to every new project in Minnesota, but instead, only those that are large enough to require an EAW under Minnesota law. State and local governmental entities will review these climate impacts before issuing permits.
As the consequences of the climate crisis such as extreme heat, droughts, storms and wildfires worsen, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) has been leading the effort to correct this glaring omission in the state’s environmental review process. Staff have been advocating the EQB make this change since 2019.
“The science is clear and the climate crisis is only getting worse. We have to take steps now to address it and protect the health and well-being of ourselves, our neighbors and our communities. To do that, we have to at a minimum at least know the climate impacts of new project proposals in Minnesota before we give them a permit,” said Amelia Vohs, regulatory attorney for MCEA and a frequent commenter at the EQB and EQB subcommittee meetings. “We are grateful to the EQB staff and all the others who worked to make this long overdue change in our state’s environmental review process possible. Now it’s time to start putting it into practice.”
While MCEA had hoped to see this change take effect sooner, the EQB opted to first roll it out via a pilot program to ensure the new requirements were navigable for project proposers. That pilot successfully concluded in September, prompting the EQB’s vote.
In addition to helping ensure Minnesotans and decision-makers understand the climate consequences of new projects, the new form will also benefit project proposers by helping them design projects that are more resilient to climate change, thereby saving them money in the long-run.
MCEA staff are available for questions and comments about the importance of today’s vote as well as what it means for Minnesota. For inquiries, please contact Sarah Horner via email or phone.