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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL)

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House approves Rep. Lislegard’s comprehensive permitting reform measure

Thursday, May 9, 2024

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota House passed SF 4942, the Agriculture, Commerce, and Energy supplemental budget bill. During discussion of the bill, the House approved an amendment proposed by Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL – Aurora) to comprehensively reform Minnesota’s environmental permitting and review process. The measure creates a process for permit applicants to request coordination on permitting activities with other agencies responsible for environmental reviews.

“The state of Minnesota hasn’t had any meaningful permitting reform in 14 years, and I’m extremely proud we took this step forward to bring some certainty to companies looking to invest in projects here at home,” Rep. Lislegard said. “This issue brings together Democrats and Republicans, business and labor, and Minnesotans from all across the state. We’ve lost out on too many opportunities because of the current process’s ambiguity, inefficiency, and lack of transparency. These overdue changes will empower us to achieve our clean energy goals while helping local communities, regional economies, and our entire state thrive.”

Rep. Lislegard’s amendment sets a state policy goal to maximize coordination, effectiveness, transparency, and accountability within the state’s environmental review and permitting processes. It allows project applicants to request an expeditious process from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to begin coordination between the agencies and stakeholders and identify any potentially challenging environmental issues. A coordinated project plan must be developed within 60 days of receiving the request including a list of involved agencies, a schedule of public meetings, and a comprehensive schedule of deadlines for environmental reviews and permits. Updates to the plan would be required quarterly.

When an Environmental Assessment Worksheet is prepared – and an Environmental Impact Statement isn’t mandatory – the decision on the need for an EIS is required within 18 months. When an EIS is prepared, agencies must issue a decision on adequacy as expeditiously as possible, but within four years. 

If the permitting deadlines for a project are deemed unattainable, it requires the agencies to report to the legislative Environment and Natural Resources committees with reasons for such a determination.

The Senate previously approved the permitting reform language in its version of the Agriculture, Commerce, and Energy supplemental budget package. The bill is expected to go to a joint House/Senate conference committee.