How to Participate

Permitting conducted by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (Commission) for new energy facilities depends on public participation. Though permitting processes vary depending on the type and size of energy facility being proposed, there are public participation opportunities that are common to all processes. People who use these opportunities can make a difference in whether a facility is built, where it's built, and how it's built.

filler image

Understanding the Permitting Process

The State of Minnesota has established a policy of locating energy facilities in an orderly manner compatible with environmental preservation, sustainable development, and efficient use of resources.  The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is responsible for locating and permitting energy facilities in Minnesota.  When a utility or other energy developer wants to build a transmission line, power plant, wind farm or pipeline, they apply to the Commission for a permit.

The Commission has a challenging job — it must determine whether a proposed energy facility should be built, the most appropriate location for the energy facility, and appropriate conditions on its construction and operation.  To help them make the best decisions, the Commission offers several opportunities for people and agencies to provide input and feedback during the permitting process.

The Commission relies primarily on two state agencies to gather and analyze public input — the Department of Commerce (Department) and the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).  These agencies gather public input and develop a record of this input which is then submitted to the Commission.  The Commission uses this record to make a final permitting decision.

  • Department of Commerce — What Are the Facts?  The Department is responsible for conducting environmental review of proposed energy facilities.  Department staff begins the environmental review process by soliciting public input on possible alternative locations for the project and potential impacts of the project.  After soliciting this input, Department staff develops and issues an environmental review document, for example, an environmental impact statement.  The environmental review describes the project, analyzes the potential human and environmental impacts of the project and alternatives, and where potential impacts are noted, suggests measures to avoid and mitigate these impacts.  The environmental review offers an objective, comparative analysis of the potential impacts of the project and alternatives.

  • Office of Administrative Hearings — What Do the Facts Mean?  The OAH conducts a public hearing on the proposed project and possible alternatives. The public hearing is conducted by an administrative law judge (ALJ). It is the opportunity for people and agencies to tell the ALJ what they believe is the best location for the proposed project, how it should be constructed and operated, and why. They can use the facts in the environmental review document and any other facts or policies that they think are relevant to help make their case.

After the public hearing, the ALJ will write a report for the Commission. The report generally includes findings, conclusions, and recommendations regarding the proposed project.

The ALJ's report, along with the environmental review document created by the Department, is submitted to the Commission for its consideration. The Commission reviews this record and decides whether to issue a permit and, if so, the appropriate permit conditions.

A schematic of the permitting process for energy facilities can be found here: Schematic of Permitting Process.  Permitting processes vary with project type and size.  Processes for specific project types are discussed on the respective energy facility tabs on this website, including flowcharts and applicable statutes and rules.

filler image

How to Make a Difference

A number of tools are available to help people contribute to the Commission's permitting decisions.  These tools are designed to (1) provide information to the public so they are aware and knowledgeable concerning the permitting of a proposed project, and (2) provide opportunities and assistance for people to comment on a project.

Where Can I Get Information About a Project in My Community?
All permitting processes start when an applicant applies to the Commission for a site or route permit.  The application is assigned a docket number and a project docket is opened.  The docket is identifed by the docket number, which is a year and four digit ID number, for example, 09-1234 (for the year "2009" and the project number "1234").  This docket is a place to organize and view all of the documents in the permitting process — in essence, a big electronic folder.  You can download and read documents in the docket and follow the permitting process as it unfolds.

You can access and read documents in a docket through the State of Minnesota's electronic docketing system (eDockets,  The eDockets system is searchable by docket number, project type, and keyword(s).

You can also access and read documents about a specific project through the Department's energy facilities website (this website,  The website is searchable by project type, name, docket number, and location.  In addition, the website includes information on the permitting process, project status indicators, and contact information for the project's environmental review manager and public advisor.  It also offers the ability to comment electronically on projects when there are open comment periods (see "How Can I Be Heard?" below). 

There are several ways for people who do not have internet access to learn more about a project:

How Can I Stay Informed?
The Commission's permitting processes can take 9 to 18 months to complete, so it's important to have a way to stay informed about a project.  There are several good ways to do this:

Public notices for a project include the "who, what, when, where, and how" for the event and related comment opportunities.  Notices also include directions for how to get help.  If you have a question about a project, a notice, an upcoming comment period, or any other matters related to a project, follow the directions in that notice to get help (also see "How Can I Get Help?" below).

How Can I Be Heard — and Make a Difference? 
The key to being heard and making a difference is showing up.  This doesn't mean you have to attend every public meeting and public hearing, but it does mean that you have to participate by submitting comments.  If you don't submit comments — either orally at public meetings and hearings, or in writing — the Commission will never know what you think about a project.

How Can I Get Help?
If you have questions about a project or the permtting process in general, you can contact Department and Commission staff directly.  Project webpages on this website provide contact information for the Department's environmental review manager and the Commission's public advisor.  A list of Department staff is available here.  A list of Commission energy facility permitting staff is available here.


Frequently Asked Questions

Note: This section under development... more soon.

Don't see your question here? Have a suggestion for a question that should be on this list? Send your suggestions to: FAQ Suggestions.