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Minnesota State Environmental Review (9-MN-a)

In Minnesota, a developer must comply with the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (“MEPA”). Note: transmission project of 69 kilovolts or less are exempt from MEPA. Minn. Admin. R. § 4410.4600(5).


MEPA requires state agencies to consider the impact of governmental actions on the environment, by using “all practicable means and measures, including financial and technical assistance, in a manner calculated to foster and promote the general welfare, to create and maintain conditions under which human beings and nature can exist in productive harmony and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of the state’s people.” Minn. Stat. § 116D.02

Unless otherwise exempt any governmental unit action or project must comply with MEPA. Minn. Stat. § 116D.04. Minnesota defines a “governmental unit” as any state agency and any general or special purpose unit of government in the state including, but not limited to…local governments.” Minn. Stat. § 116D.04(1)(e); Minn. Admin. R. § 4410.0200(34). A “government action” is defined as “…activities, including projects wholly or partially conducted, permitted, assisted, financed, regulated, or approved by units of government including the federal government.” Minn. Stat. § 116D.04(1)(d). In addition, a “project” is defined as “…a governmental action, the results of which would cause physical manipulation of the environment, directly or indirectly…” Minn. Admin. R. § 4410.0200(65).

In short MEPA can apply to any action or project that meets three (3) conditions:

  1. The action or project must involve at least one governmental approval or one form of governmental financial assistance or be conducted by a government unit;
  2. The action or project must involve the physical manipulation of the environment, directly or indirectly; and
  3. The action or project approval and construction must take place in the future; that is, projects constructed or those with all required governmental approvals are not subject to further review, unless an expansion is proposed.

Minnesota Environmental Quality Board – Environmental Review Rules Guide at p. 5.

MEPA and other subsequently promulgated rules found in Minnesota – Minn. Admin. R. §§ 4410 et seq., Environmental Review have mandated the completion of environmental documents such as environmental assessment worksheets (“EAWs”) and/or environmental impact statements (“EISs”) for most state actions. However, most electric energy production and transmission facilities are reviewed through special alternative procedures and do not have regular EAWs and EISs prepared for them. Minnesota Environmental Quality Board – Environmental Review Rules Guide at p. 37.

Generally, the lead agency to conduct a MEPA review for electric energy production and transmission facilities is the Minnesota Department of Commerce (“Department”) in conjunction with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (“MPUC”). Minnesota Environmental Quality Board – Environmental Review Rules Guide, p. 37. The Department and the MPUC conduct MEPA reviews pursuant to Minnesota – Minn. Stat. §§ 216B et seq., Public Utilities, Minnesota – Minn. Admin. R. §§ 7849 et seq., Certificate of Need, Minnesota – Minn. Stat. §§ 216E et seq., Electric Power Facility Permits and Minnesota – Minn. Admin. Rules §§ 7850 et seq., Site and Route Permit. However, in certain circumstances a local governmental unit may be the lead agency to conduct the environmental review.

The Minnesota Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) unit, a branch of the Department conducts environmental review of most bulk transmission projects, provides technical expertise and submits recommendations to the MPUC after analysis of transmission projects seeking a Certificate of Need and/or Route Permit. EERA (herein “the Department”) conducts an environmental review in conjunction with the MPUC and issues either an Environmental Report, an Environmental Assessment (“EA”) or an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) to assist the MPUC in making a Certificate of Need or Route Permit decision.



State Environmental Review Process

9-MN-a.1 – Does the Proposed Project Require a Certificate of Need from the MPUC?

In Minnesota, a bulk transmission developer must obtain a Certificate of Need from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (“MPUC”) to site or construct a large energy facility. Minn. Stat. §216B.243(2). A “large energy facility” includes:

  • “…any high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more and greater than ten (10) miles of its length in Minnesota or that crosses a state line…”; *“…any high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more and greater than 1,500 feet in length…”; or
  • “…any electric power generating plant or combination of plant at a single site with a combined capacity of 50,000 kilovolts or more and transmission lines directly associated with the plant that are necessary to interconnect the plant to the transmission system.”

Minn. Stat. §216B.2421(2)(2)-(3).

The MPUC regulates large energy facilities through the Certificate of Need permitting process pursuant to Minnesota – Minn. Stat. §§ 216B et seq., Public Utilities and Minnesota – Minn. Admin. R. §§ 7849 et seq., Certificate of Need. For more information regarding whether a Certificate of Need is required, see:

Certificate of Need:
8-MN-c

If a Certificate of Need is required the Minnesota Department of Commerce (“Department of Commerce”) conducts a state environmental review and generally prepares an Environmental Report to submit to the MPUC to consider during a Certificate of Need determination. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1200.

9-MN-a.2 – Does the Proposed Project Qualify for an Alternative Route Permit Review?

Generally, the Department of Commerce prepares an Environmental Report for the proposed project seeking a Certificate of Need from the MPUC. However, if the applicant (developer) for a Certificate of Need for a high-voltage transmission line applies to the Department of Commerce for a Route Permit prior to the time the Department of Commerce completes the Environmental Report, the Department of Commerce may elect prepare an Environmental Assessment (“EA”) or an Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) in lieu of an Environmental Report if certain circumstances are met. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1900.

If the proposed project qualifies for an alternative permit review pursuant Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2800 and the applicant (developer) applies for a Route Permit prior to the time the Department of Commerce completes the Environmental Report the Department of Commerce may elect to prepare an EA in accordance to Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.3700 in lieu of the Environmental Report. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1900(1).

A developer seeking a Route Permit for one of the projects identified below qualifies for an optional alternative permit review:

  • High-voltage transmission lines between 100 and 200 kilovolts;
  • High-voltage transmission lines in excess of 200 kilovolts and less than five miles in length in Minnesota;
  • High-voltage transmission lines in excess of 200 kilovolts if at least 80 percent of the distance of the line in Minnesota will be located along existing high-voltage transmission line right-of-way;
  • A high-voltage transmission line service extension to a single customer between 200 and 300 kilovolts and less than ten (10) miles in length; and
  • A high-voltage transmission line rerouting to serve the demand of a single customer when the rerouted line will be located at least 80 percent on property owned or controlled by the customer or the owner of the transmission line.

Minn. Stat. §§216E.04; 216E.05; Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.5300(2).

If the proposed project does not qualify for an alternative permit review pursuant Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2800 and the applicant (developer) applies for a Route Permit prior to the time the Department of Commerce completes the Environmental Report, the Department of Commerce may elect to prepare an EIS in accordance to Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.3700 in lieu of the Environmental Report. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1900(1).

9-MN-a.3 – Does the Department of Commerce Elect to Prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA)?

Generally, the Department of Commerce prepares an Environmental Report for the proposed project seeking a Certificate of Need from the MPUC. However, if the applicant (developer) for a Certificate of Need for a high-voltage transmission line applies to the Department of Commerce for a Route Permit prior to the time the Department of Commerces completes the Environmental Report, and the project qualifies for alternative permit review by the Department of Commerce under Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2800, the Department of Commerce may elect to prepare an EA in accordance to Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.3700 in lieu of the Environmental Report. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1900(1).

If combining the processes would delay completion of environmental review under Minn. Admin. R. §§7849.1000 -2100, the Department of Commerce can combine the processes only if the applicant (developer) and the MPUC agree to the combination. If the processes are combined, the Department of Commerce must include in the EA the analysis of alternatives required by Minn. Admin. R. §1500, but is not required to prepare an Environmental Report under Minn. Admin. R. §§7849.1000 -2100. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1900(1).

If the Department of Commerce elects to prepare an EA and the developer and MPUC agree proceed to element 9-MN-a.32.

9-MN-a.4 – Does the Department of Commerce Elect to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?

In the event an applicant (developer) for a Certificate of Need for a high-voltage transmission line applies to the Department of Commerce for a Route Permit prior to the time the Department of Commerce completes the Environmental Report, and the project does not qualify for alternative review by the Department of Commerce under Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2800, the Department of Commerce may elect to prepare an EIS in lieu of the Environmental Report required under Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1900, if the applicant (developer) and the MPUC agree to the additional time that will be required to prepare the EIS. In this event, the Department of Commerce must include in the EIS the analysis of alternatives required by part Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1500, but is not required to prepare an Environmental Report under part Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1200. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1900(2).

If the Department of Commerce elects to prepare an EIS and the developer and MPUC agree proceed to element 9-MN-a.18.

9-MN-a.5 – Provide Notice of the Project

Upon receipt of an Application for a Certificate of Need, the Department of Commerce must provide notice of the to interested persons of proposed project. “The Department of Commerce must provide notice to the following persons:

  • Those persons on the Department of Commerce’s list maintained pursuant to Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2100;
  • Those persons on the general service list maintained by the applicant (developer) pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 7829.0600;
  • Those persons on any service list maintained by the MPUC for the proceeding;
  • Those persons who are required to be given notice of the Certificate of Need Application under rules of the MPUC;
  • Those persons who own property adjacent to any…route under serious consideration by the applicant (developer) if such…routes are know to the applicant (developer).”

Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(1).

The notice required must contain, at minimum, the following information:

  • “A description of the proposed project, including possible routes if known;
  • A statement that authorization from the MPUC to construct the facility has been applied for and a description of the MPUC process, including a statement that the PUC proceeding is the only proceeding in which the no-build alternative and the size, type, timing, system configuration, and voltage will be considered;
  • A statement that the Department of Commerce will prepare an Environmental Report on the project and a description of the process for preparation of the report;
  • A statement that a public meeting will be held by the Department of Commerce and the date and place of the meeting;
  • A statement that the public will have an opportunity to ask questions about the project and to suggest alternatives and impacts to address in the Environmental Report at the public meeting, and a statement explaining the purpose of the public meeting;
  • A statement informing the public of where copies of the pertinent information may be reviewed and copies obtained;
  • A statement indicating whether the project proposer may exercise the power of eminent domain to acquire the land necessary for the project and the basis for such authority; and
  • A statement describing the manner in which an interested person can add the person's name to the mailing list for future notices.”

Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(2).

9-MN-a.6 to 9-MN-a.8 – Publish Notice of Public Meeting

The Department of Commerce must hold a public meeting within forty (40) days after receipt of an Application for a Certificate of Need. The Department of Commerce must publish notice:

  • Of the meeting at least fifteen (15) days prior to the meeting to those persons listed above who require notice of the purposed project;
  • Of the meeting in a newspaper of local circulation in the area at least ten (10) days before the meeting; and
  • Publish notice of the meeting in the EQB Monitor and the agency’s website.

Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(3).


The public meeting must be held in a location that is convenient for persons who live near a proposed project. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(3).

The Department of Commerce must make a copy of the Certificate of Need Application available at the public meeting. The Department of Commerce's staff must explain the process for preparation of the Environmental Report. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(4).

At the public meeting, meeting participants may also help scope the ultimate Environmental Report by suggesting project alternatives to consider. Minnesota Public Utilities Commission - The Certificate of Need Process Guidance. In addition, the public must be afforded an opportunity to ask questions and present comments and to suggest alternatives and possible impacts to be evaluated in the Environmental Report. The Department of Commerce must keep an audio recording of the meeting. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(4). The developer must provide representatives at the public meeting who can respond to questions about the proposed project. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(5).

The Department of Commerce must provide at least twenty (20) days from the day of the public meeting for the public to submit written comments regarding the proposed project. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(4).

Note: This is the same meeting as outlined in 8-MN-c – Certificate of Need element 13.

9-MN-a.9 – Scoping Order

Within ten (10) days after close of the public comment period, the Department of Commerce must issue a Scoping Order determining the following:

  • The alternatives to be addressed in the Environmental Report, including the alternatives required by Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(1)(B);
  • The specific potential impacts to be addressed;
  • The schedule for completion of the Environmental Report; and
  • The matters to be included in the Environmental Report.

Minn. Admin. R. §1400(7).

Once the Department of Commerce has issued an order establishing the matters to be evaluated in the Environmental Report, the Scoping Order must not be changed except upon a decision by the Department of Commerce that substantial changes have been made in the project or substantial new information has arisen significantly affecting the potential environmental effects of the project or the availability of reasonable alternatives. The Department of Commerce may elect to bring any decisions regarding what should be included in the Environmental Report to the next regularly scheduled meeting or a special meeting. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(7).

9-MN-a.10 to 9-MN-a.11 – Publish Notice of Scoping Order

At the time of the Department of Commerce's decision, the Department of Commerce must mail the Scoping Order to those persons who have requested to be notified. Any person may request to bring the matter of what alternatives or impacts to include in the Environmental Report to the Department of Commerce in accordance with part Minn. Stat. §4405.0600(5). Such request must be filed in writing with the Department of Commerce within ten (10) days of the Department of Commerce's decision. A request to bring the matter to the Department of Commerce must not preclude the Department of Commerce from beginning preparation of the Environmental Report in accordance with the Department of Commerce's decision. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(8).

9-MN-a.12 – Environmental Report

The Department of Commerce must prepare an Environmental Report for all high-voltage transmission line projects that require a Certificate of Need from the MPUC. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1200. The Department of Commerce may request another state agency to assist in the preparation of an Environmental Report. Upon request, another state agency must provide in a timely manner any unprivileged data or information to which it has reasonable access concerning the matters to be addressed in the Environmental Report and must assist in the preparation of the Environmental Report when the agency has special expertise or access to information. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1600. The Department of Commerce may also request the applicant (developer) assist in the preparation of the Environmental Report. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1700.

The Environmental Report must contain information on the human and environmental impacts of the proposed project associated with the size, type, and timing of the project, system configurations, and voltage. The Environmental Report must also contain information on alternatives to the proposed project and must address mitigating measures for anticipated adverse impacts. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1200. The Environmental Report must include:

  • A general description of the proposed project and associated facilities;
  • A general description of the alternatives to the proposed project that are addressed. Alternatives must include the no-build alternative, demand side management, purchased power, facilities of a different size or using a different energy source than the source proposed by the applicant (developer), upgrading of existing facilities, generation rather than transmission if a high voltage transmission line is proposed, transmission rather than generation if a large electric power generating plant is proposed, use of renewable energy sources, and those alternatives identified by the Department of Commerce of the Department of Commerce;
  • An analysis of the human and environmental impacts of a project of the type proposed and of the alternatives identified;
  • An analysis of the potential impacts that are project specific;
  • An analysis of mitigative measures that could reasonably be implemented to eliminate or minimize any adverse impacts identified for the proposed project and each alternative analyzed;
  • An analysis of the feasibility and availability of each alternative considered;
  • A list of permits required for the project;
  • A discussion of other matters identified by the Department of Commerce.

Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1500(1).

At a minimum, the Department of Commerce must address in the Environmental Report the following impacts for any high-voltage transmission line and associated facilities:

  • The typical right-of-way required for construction of a transmission line;
  • The anticipated size and type of structures required for a line;
  • The electric and magnetic fields usually associated with a line;
  • The anticipated noise impacts of the transmission line; and
  • The anticipated visual impacts of the transmission line.

Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1500(3).

In preparing an Environmental Report, the Department of Commerce may incorporate information and data from other documents in accordance with Minn. Admin. § 4410.2400.

The Department of Commerce is responsible for the completeness and accuracy of all the information in the Environmental Report. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1200.

The Department of Commerce must complete the Environmental Report in accordance with the schedule determined by the Department of Commerce. In establishing the schedule for completion of the Environmental Report, the Department of Commerce must take into account any applicable statutory deadlines, the number and complexity of the alternatives and impacts to be addressed, and the interests of the public, the applicant (developer), the MPUC, the Department of Commerce, and other state agencies. The Department of Commerce must complete the Environmental Report within four (4) months of submission of the information required by Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1300. If the MPUC should determine that an initial Certificate of Need Application is incomplete, the Department of Commerce's schedule me be extended accordingly. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(9).

Note: At the time the MPUC makes a final decision on a Certificate of Need, the MPUC may request the Department of Commerce prepare a supplement to the Environmental Report, if the MPUC determines that an additional alternative or impact should be addressed or supplemental information should be provided. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1800(2).

9-MN-a.13 – Publish Notice of Environmental Report

Upon completion of the Environmental Report, the Department of Commerce must publish notice in the EQB Monitor of the availability of the Environmental Report and mail notice of the availability of the document to those persons who have requested to be notified. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(10).

9-MN-a.14 – Provide Copy of Environmental Report

The Department of Commerce must provide a copy of the document to the MPUC and to any other public agency with authority to permit or approve the proposed project. The Department of Commerce must also post the Environmental Report on the agency's webpage. Minn. Admin. R. §7849.1400(10).

9-MN-a.15 to 9-MN-a.16 – Does the Proposed Project Qualify for a Local Route Permit Review?

If the proposed project qualifies for a local permit review, the MPUC must select the appropriate unit of government to be the responsible to conduct environmental review of the project. Minn. Stat. §216E.05(1)(b). If the proposed project qualifies for and the developer elects a local permit review, and the developer elects a local permit review, and the unit of government maintains jurisdiction, the local government unit responsible for the environmental review must prepare an EA. Minnesota – Local Review of Energy Facilities – A Guide for Governmental Units, Utilities, and Developers. For more information about the EA process proceed to 9-MN-a.32.

9-MN-a.17 – Does the Proposed Project Qualify for a Alternative Permit Review?

A developer seeking a Route Permit for one of the projects identified below qualifies for an optional alternative permit review:

  • High-voltage transmission lines between 100 and 200 kilovolts;
  • High-voltage transmission lines in excess of 200 kilovolts and less than five miles in length in Minnesota;
  • High-voltage transmission lines in excess of 200 kilovolts if at least 80 percent of the distance of the line in Minnesota will be located along existing high-voltage transmission line right-of-way;
  • A high-voltage transmission line service extension to a single customer between 200 and 300 kilovolts and less than ten (10) miles in length; and
  • A high-voltage transmission line rerouting to serve the demand of a single customer when the rerouted line will be located at least 80 percent on property owned or controlled by the customer or the owner of the transmission line.

Minn. Stat. §§216E.04; Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2800(1).

If the proposed project qualifies for an alternative permit review pursuant to Minn. Stat. §§216E.04 and Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2800(1) then the Department of Commerce must prepare, for the MPUC, an EA. Minn. Stat. §216E.04(5).

If the proposed project does not qualify for an alternative permit review, the Department of Commerce must prepare for the MPUC an EIS on each proposed high-voltage transmission line for which a complete Route Permit Application has been submitted. Minn. Stat. §216E.03(5).

9-MN-a.18 – Conduct Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Review

The Department of Commerce must prepare for the MPUC an EIS on each proposed high-voltage transmission line for which a complete Route Permit Application has been submitted. The Department of Commerce must not consider whether or not the project is needed. No other state environmental review documents is required. The Department of Commerce must study and evaluate any route proposed by an applicant (developer) and any other route the MPUC deems necessary that was proposed in a manner consistent with rules concerning the form, content, and timeliness of proposals for alternate routes. Minn. Stat. §216E.03(5).

9-MN-a.19 to 9-MN-a.21 – Publish Notice of Public Scoping Meeting

The Department of Commerce must provide the public with an opportunity to participate in the development of the scope of the EIS by holding a public meeting and by soliciting public comments. The public meeting required under Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2300(2) as outlined in the 8-MN-a – Route Permit satisfies the requirement to hold a scoping meeting. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2500(2).

The public meeting outlined pursuant to Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2300(2) in 8-MN-a – Route Permit requires a public meeting be held no later than sixty (60) days after the acceptance of the Route Permit Application. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2300(1). The rules under Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2300(2) also require that notice be published at least ten (10) days before the public meeting. Notice must be provided by mail to persons whose names are on the project contact list maintained pursuant to Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2100(1). The rules also require the MPUC to publish notice of the public meeting in a legal newspaper of general circulation in the area where the project is proposed to be located. If appropriate, the MPUC may request the applicant (developer) to include notice of the public meeting in the notice to be provided by the applicant (developer) pursuant to Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2100. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2300(2).

The Department of Commerce must provide a period of at least seven (7) days from the day of the public meeting for the public to submit comments on the scope of the EIS. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2500(2). During the scoping process, a person may suggest alternative routes to evaluate in the EIS. A person desiring that a particular route be evaluated must submit to the Department of Commerce, during the scoping process, an explanation of why the route should be included in the EIS and any other supporting information the person wants the Department of Commerce to consider. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2500(3).

The Department of Commerce must provide the applicant (developer) with an opportunity to respond to each request that an alternative be included in the EIS. The Department of Commerce must include the suggested route in the scope of the EIS only if the Department of Commerce determines that evaluation of the proposed route will assist in the MPUC’s decision on the Route Permit Application. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2500(3).

9-MN-a.22 to 9-MN-a.23 – Determine Scope of EIS

The Department of Commerce must determine the scope of the EIS as soon after holding the public scoping meeting as possible. Within five (5) days after the decision, the Department of Commerce must mail notice of the scoping decision to those persons whose names are on either the general list or the project contact list. Once the Department of Commerce has determined the scope of the EIS, the scope must not be changed except upon decision by the Department of Commerce that substantial changes have been made in the project or substantial new information has arisen significantly affecting the potential environmental effects of the project or the availability of reasonable alternatives. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2500(2).

The scoping process must be used to reduce the scope and bulk of an EIS by identifying the potentially significant issues and alternatives requiring analysis and establishing the detail into which the issues will be analyzed. The scoping decision by the Department of Commerce must at least address the following:

  • The issues to be addressed in the EIS;
  • The alternative routes to be addressed in the EIS; and
  • The schedule for completion of the EIS.

Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2500(4).

9-MN-a.24 – Draft EIS

After determining the scope of the EIS, the Department of Commerce composes a Draft EIS. The Draft EIS must be written in plain and objective language. The Draft EIS must follow the standard format for an EIS in Minn. Admin. § 4410.2400 to the extent the requirements of that rule are appropriate. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2500(6).

When the MPUC has issued a Certificate of Need for a high-voltage transmission line, the EIS must not address questions of need, including size, type, and timing; questions of alternative system configurations; or questions of voltage. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2500(5).

9-MN-a.25 – Publish Notice of Draft EIS

Upon completion of the Draft EIS, the Department of Commerce must make the document available for public review by placing a copy of the document in a public library or other governmental office in each county where the proposed project may be located. The Department of Commerce must send notice of the availability of the Draft EIS to each person on the project contact list maintained under Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2100(1). Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2500(7).

The Department of Commerce must also place a notice in the EQB Monitor of the availability of the Draft EIS. The Department of Commerce must post the EIS on the agency’s website if possible. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.2500(7).

9-MN-a.26 to 9-MN-a.28– Publish Notice of Informational Meeting

After drafting the Draft EIS, the Department of Commerce schedules a meeting to allow the public to comment on the Draft EIS. The Department of Commerce sends notice of the informational meeting to each person on the project contact list. The Department of Commerce also places a notice of the informational meeting in the EQB Monitor. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.2500(8).

The informational meeting is held no less than twenty (20) days after the Draft EIS becomes available to the public. The meeting is held in a location convenient to the persons who live near the proposed project. At the informational meeting, the public can comment on the Draft EIS. The Department of Commerce leaves the record on the Draft EIS open for written comments for at least ten (10) days after the informational meeting occurs. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.2500(8).

9-MN-a.29 to 9-MN-a.31– Final EIS

After the comment period, the Department of Commerce responds timely to substantive comments made on the Draft EIS, and prepares the Final EIS. The Department of Commerce publishes notice of the Final EIS in the EQB Monitor, and sends a press release to at least one newspaper of general circulation in the areas where the proposed route is located. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.2500(9).

After the Department of Commerce completes the Final EIS, the MPUC determines whether the Final EIS is adequate. The MPUC does not decide the adequacy of the Final EIS until at least ten (10) days after the release of the Final EIS. The MPUC find the Final EIS adequate if it:

  • Addresses the issues and alternatives raised in scoping to a reasonable extent considering the availability of information and the time limitations for considering the Application;
  • Provides responses to the timely substantive comments received during the draft EIS review process; and
  • Is prepared in compliance with the procedures in Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.1000 and Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.5600.

Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.2500(10).

If MPUC finds that the Final EIS is not adequate, the MPUC directs the Department of Commerce to respond to the deficiencies and resubmit a revised Final EIS to MPUC as soon as possible. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.2500(10).

9-MN-a.32 – Conduct Environmental Assessment (EA) Review

Alternative Permit Review

For high-voltage transmission line projects that qualify for an alternative review, the Department of Commerce must prepare an EA for the MPUC. The EA must contain information on the human and environmental impacts of the proposed project and other routes identified by the MPUC and must address mitigating measures for all of the routes considered. The EA is the only state environmental review document required to be prepared on the project. No EA worksheet or EIS is required. Minn. Stat. §216E.04(5); Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(1).

Local Permit Review

A local unit of government that maintains jurisdiction over a qualifying project must prepare an EA on the project. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.5300(5). An EA is an environmental review document provided for by the Minnesota Power Plant Siting Act. Minnesota – Local Review of Energy Facilities – A Guide for Governmental Units, Utilities, and Developers.

If more than one local unit of government has jurisdiction over a project, and the local units of government cannot agree on which unit will prepare an EA, any local unit of government or the applicant (developer) may request the MPUC to select the appropriate local unit of government to be the responsible governmental unit to conduct an environmental review of the project. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.5300(5).

9-MN-a.33 to 9-MN-a.35 – Publish Notice of Public Scoping Meeting

The Department of Commerce or local government unit must provide the public with an opportunity to participate in the development of the scope of the EA by holding a public meeting and by soliciting public comments. The public meeting required pursuant to Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3500 and outlined in 8-MN-a – Route Permit satisfies the requirement to hold a scoping meeting. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(2)(A); Minnesota – Local Review of Energy Facilities – A Guide for Governmental Units, Utilities, and Developers.

Alternative Permit Review

The Department of Commerce must mail notice of the meeting to those persons on either the general list or the project contact list at least ten (10) days before the meeting. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(2)(A); Minnesota – Local Review of Energy Facilities – A Guide for Governmental Units, Utilities, and Developers.

The Department of Commerce must provide at least seven (7) days from the day of the public meeting for the public to submit comments regarding the scope of the EA. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(2)(A).

During the scoping process, any person may suggest an alternative route to evaluate in the EA. A person desiring that a particular route be evaluated must submit to the Department of Commerce, during the scoping process, an explanation of why the route should be included in the EA and all supporting information the person wants the Department of Commerce to consider. The Department of Commerce must provide the applicant (developer) with an opportunity to respond to each request that an alternative be included in the EA. The Department of Commerce must include the suggested route in the scope of the EA only if the Department of Commerce determines that evaluation of the proposed route will assist in the Department of Commerce's ultimate decision on the Route Permit Application. Any person may also suggest specific human or environmental impacts that should be included in the EA. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(2)(B).

9-MN-a.36 to 9-MN-a.37 – Determine Scope of EA

The Department of Commerce or the local government must determine the scope of the EA.

Alternative Permit Review

The Department of Commerce must determine the scope of the EA within ten (10) days after close of the public comment period and must mail notice of the scoping decision to those persons on the project contact list within five (5) days after the decision. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(3).

Once the Department of Commerce has determined the scope of the EA, the scope must not be changed except upon a decision by the Department of Commerce that substantial changes have been made in the project or substantial new information has arisen significantly affecting the potential environmental effects of the project or the availability of reasonable alternatives. The Department of Commerce must also determine as part of the scoping process a reasonable schedule for completion of the EA. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(3). In establishing the schedule for completion of the EA, the Department of Commerce must take into account any applicable statutory deadlines, the number and complexity of the alternatives and impacts to be addressed, the status of other proceedings affecting the project, and the interests of the public, the applicant (developer), and the Department of Commerce. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(5).

The scoping decision by the Department of Commerce must identify:

  • The alternative sites or routes, if any, to be addressed in the EA;
  • Any specific potential impacts to be addressed;
  • The schedule for completion of the EA; and
  • Other matters to be included in the environmental assessment.

Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(3).

The Department of Commerce must include in the scope of the EA any alternative routes proposed by the citizen advisory task force or by any member agency of the Environmental Quality Board prior to the close of the scoping period. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(2)(B).

9-MN-a.38 – Environmental Assessment (EA)

After determining the scope of the EA and reviewing public comments regarding the EA and the proposed project, the Department of Commerce or local governmental unit must draft an EA. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(5); |Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.5300(5); Minnesota – Local Review of Energy Facilities – A Guide for Governmental Units, Utilities, and Developers.

When the MPUC has issued a Certificate of Need for a high voltage transmission line, the EA must not address questions of need, including size, type, and timing; questions of alternative system configurations; or questions of voltage. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(7); |Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.5300(7).

Alternative Permit Review

The Department of Commerce must complete the EA in accordance with the schedule established during the scoping process. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(5).

The EA must include:

  • A general description of the proposed facility;
  • A list of any alternative routes that are addressed;
  • A discussion of the potential impacts of the proposed project and each alternative route on the human and natural environment;
  • A discussion of mitigative measures that could reasonably be implemented to eliminate or minimize any adverse impacts identified for the proposed project and each alternative route analyzed;
  • An analysis of the feasibility of each alternative route considered;
  • A list of permits required for the project; and
  • A discussion of other matters identified in the scoping process.

Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(4).

Local Permit Review

The EA should include, in an appendix, the following documents:

  • Notice of the EA scoping meeting (e.g., copy of letter, newspaper notice);
  • All comments received on the scope of the environmental assessment, including citizen comments and agency comments. If no comments were received (e.g., no citizen comments), then this should be noted;
  • A scoping decision by the responsible local government unit, which outlines those topics which will be evaluated and discussed in the environmental assessment.

Minnesota – Local Review of Energy Facilities – A Guide for Governmental Units, Utilities, and Developers.


9-MN-a.39 to 9-MN-a.40 – Publish Notice of Environmental Assessment (EA)

Upon completion of the EA, the Department of Commerce or the local government must publish notice in the EQB Monitor of the availability of the EA and mail notice of the availability of the document to those persons on the project contact list. The Department of Commerce or local government must provide a copy of the EA to the MPUC and any public agency with authority to permit or approve the proposed project. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(6); Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.5300(5).

Alternative Permit Review

The Department of Commerce must also post the EA on the agency's webpage, if possible. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3700(6).

Once the Department of Commerce completes the EA, the MPUC must hold a public hearing. For more information about the public hearing, see:

Transmission Siting Process:
8-MN-a

At the time the MPUC makes a final decision on the Route Permit Application, the MPUC must determine whether the EA and the record created at the public hearing address the issues identified in the scoping decision made by the Department of Commerce. Minn. Admin. Rules § 7850.3900(2).

Local Permit Review

Upon completion of the EA, the local unit of government must publish notice in the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board Monitor that the EA is available for review, how a copy of the document may be reviewed, that the public may comment on the document, and the procedure for submitting comments to the local unit of government. The local unit of government must provide a copy of the EA to the MPUC upon completion of the document. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.5300(5).

If more than one local unit of government has jurisdiction over a project, and the local units of government cannot agree on which unit will prepare the EA, any local unit of government or the applicant (developer) may request the MPUC to select the appropriate local unit of government to be the responsible governmental unit to conduct an environmental review of the project. Minn. Admin. R. § 7850.5300(5).


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Contact Information









Edit Minnesota Department of Commerce
Deputy Commissioner of Division of Energy Resources (651) 539-1801


Edit Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
Energy Facilities Planning Supervisor (651) 201.2236