Other faculty include Collette L. Adkins Giese, Richard A. Duncan, and Sanne H. Knudsen - Faegre & Benson LLP, Craig Affeldt - Minnesoa Pollution Control Agency, B. Andrew Brown - Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Gregg Downing - Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, Nicholas N. Nierengarten - Gray Plant Mooty, and Kevin Reuther - Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.
The process generally takes about a year, but could be as long as 18 to 24 months if a project is complicated and controversial, according to Gregg Downing, environmental review coordinator for the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board.The studies typically cost at least $100,000 -- sometimes several times that amount-- and the project sponsor pays all or most of the cost, he said.
According to Gregg Downing, environmental review program coordinator for the state of Minnesota, "less than a handful of projects throughout the state complete the environmental review process."There are several loopholes in the rules that allow projects to avoid steps in the process, and the state takes little responsibility for the effect projects have on the environment.
The purpose of the environmental review is to research the potential environmental effects of a proposed development.The idea came about in the early 1970s and was considered radical for its time.Minnesota was a leader in the environmental movement-a state that would put the needs of the land before that of development.However, time has told a tale of a passive policy that does not demand accountability on the part of local governments.
Gregg Downing explained the Environmental Quality Board, "used to [conduct the environmental review], but it was too cumbersome for one committee, who only met once a month in St. Paul, to complete all of the projects statewide." According to the board, the responsible government unit is determined using one of the following criteria.If a single government unit will carry out the project, they are the responsible government unit.If this is not the case then the government unit with the greatest authority over the project is the responsible government unit.If it is unclear who has the greatest authority, the government units involved may mutually agree on which is to be the overseeing unit.If groups cannot reach agreement, the Environmental Quality Board chair must determine the responsible government unit. Once the responsible government unit is determined, its role is to define the project.
Downing believes most projects are straightforward.However, some projects will be completed in phases that are not noted in the initial plan.Therefore, The Guide to Minnesota Environmental Review Rules defines two concepts that will support the responsible government unit when defining the project. "Phased actions," the first of the concepts, are defined as: "two or more projects by the same proposer that a responsible government unit determines will have environmental effects on the same geographic area and are substantially certain to be undertaken sequentially over a limited period of time." The second concept is "connected actions" and involves several associations between projects.
Downing was, "unable to recall the last time a voluntary EIS occurred." Once it is determined that the project shows potential significant environmental affects and an EIS is ordered, it is the responsibility of the developer to pay for the process.On average, the process costs $100,000.The costs cover scoping, preparing and distributing the information.
Downing believes that, "overall the [environmental review process] is effective, though it varies in any case and some fall short of the intent."He suggests the process is skewed depending on the responsible government unit, though no action is being taken to change the rules regarding the selection process. According to the Environmental Quality Board, "the primary purpose of the Minnesota environmental review program is to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for each project with ‘potential for significant environmental effects'."Few projects enter the EIS phase of the process.
Questions and requests for a copy of the proposed rules or other documents should be directed to Gregg Downing, Environmental Quality Board, 300 Centennial Building, 658 Cedar Street, St. Paul, MN 55155; (651) 205-4660; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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