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Environmental Review of Energy Projects

The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) unit conducts environmental review on behalf of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (Commission) for proposed energy projects including power plants, transmission lines, wind farms, and pipelines. 

The Commission is responsible for issuing or denying permits for these energy projects.  EERA provides technical expertise and assistance to the Commission including analysis of the relative merits of siting and routing options, identification of permit conditions to mitigate potential impacts, and review of permit compliance filings.  EERA also identifies and undertakes research on the environmental impacts of energy facilities and creates guidance materials to ensure adequate and consistent analysis of these impacts.

For questions about a specific project, contact EERA staff listed on the project webpage. Click on the type of project you're interested in (below) and then on the project name.  For general questions and for project developers with new projects email: louise.miltich@state.mn.us or call 651-539-1853.

Public Participation

Environmental review is a public process – it relies on the maxim that none of us is as smart as all of us.  A number of tools are offered here to help you discover, track, and comment on energy projects proposed for your community.  Click on the type of project you’re interested in (above) and you will see a list of current projects.

You can also search for projects by type (e.g., transmission line) and location (e.g. Brown County) in the project database.

Power Plants

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is responsible for permitting power plants -- solar, natural gas, nuclear, and coal plants -- that are capable of operating at 50 megawatts or more (Minnesota Statute 216E). The rules for the environmental review and permitting of power plants are found at Minnesota Rules Chapter 7850.

Open Projects

Open projects are projects currently in the permitting process. They are listed here chronologically, most recent projects first. If you do not see a specific power plant project, it may have already been permitted and constructed. To see all projects, search the project database.

Full Review

For the full review permitting process, an applicant must identify at least two possible sites for its project.  As part of the full review process, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) unit prepares an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the project, and a contested case hearing is conducted by an administrative law judge.  The Commission has up to one year from the time the application is accepted to complete the process and make a decision on the permit.  Minn. Rules 7850 | Full Review Flowchart.   

Alternative Review

An alternative review permitting process is available for certain power plants identified in Minnesota Statute 216E.04.  For the alternative review process, EERA prepares an environmental assessment (EA) for the project, and a public hearing is conducted by an administrative law judge.  The Commission has up to six months from the time the application is accepted to complete the process and make a decision on the permit.  Minn. Rules 7850 | Alternative Review Flowchart.   

Local Review

For certain projects, the applicant can elect to seek authorization from local units of government rather than from the Commission. Qualifying projects are identified in Minnesota Statute 216E.05Minn. Rules 7850.5300 | Local Review Fact Sheet.

Environmental Assessment Worksheet

New power plants under 50 megawatts but over 25 megawatts do not require a Commission site permit, but do require an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (Minnesota Statute 116D) and Minnesota Rule 4410.4300.  New power plants under five megawatts are exempt from any state environmental review, and plants between five and 25 megawatts are subject to discretionary review.

Certificate of Need

A certificate of need from the Commission is required for a proposed power plant that is a large energy facility per Minnesota Statute 216B.2421.  If a certificate of need is required, it must be issued prior to the site permit for the project (Minnesota Statute 216B.243).

Resources

  • Solar Energy Production and Prime Farmland: Guidance for Evaluating Prudent and Feasible Alternatives: Energy generating facilities are not permitted that include more than 0.5 acres of prime farmland per MW of net generating capacity if there are feasible and prudent alternatives. The guidance is meant to asssist developers in defining feasible and prudent in relation to siting alternatives and encourage them to build a record to inform whether an exception to the prime farmland exclusion is warranted. May 19, 2020
  • Solar Energy Generating Systems Size Determination Request Form: Form used to determine if a combination of solar energy generating systems meet the definition of a large electric power generating plant, July 15, 2020 | Guide details
  • Solar Siting and Environmental Review Working Group - Final Report: Recognizing that Minnesota is entering a period of unprecedented solar growth and development, the Minnesota Department of Commerce convened the Solar Siting and Environmental Review Working Group (Working Group) to discuss and identify issues and opportunities related to reviewing, permitting, and siting new solar facilities. The Working Group – a small but broad stakeholder group of advocates, developers, local governments, state agencies, and utilities – agreed there is a state interest in permitting solar facilities below the current 50 MW specified in the Minnesota Power Plant Siting Act. Participants also agreed that a local permitting option should exist for local governments that have ordinances addressing solar facilities. , March 26, 2015 | Report details
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Transmission Lines

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is responsible for permitting transmission lines capable of operating at 100 kilovolts or more (Minnesota Statute 216E).  The rules for the environmental review and permitting of transmission lines are found at Minnesota Rules Chapter 7850.

Open Projects

Open projects are projects currently in the permitting process. They are listed here chronologically, most recent projects first. If you do not see a specific transmission line project, it may have already been permitted and constructed. To see all projects, search the project database.

Full Review

For the full review permitting process, an applicant must identify at least two possible routes for its project.  As part of the permitting process, the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) unit prepares an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the project, and a contested case hearing is conducted by an administrative law judge.  The Commission has up to one year from the time the application is accepted to complete the process and make a decision on the permit.  Minn. Rules 7850 | Full Review Flowchart.   

Alternative Review

An alternative review permitting process is available for certain transmission lines identified in Minnesota Statute 216E.04.  For the alternative review process, EERA prepares an environmental assessment (EA) for the project, and a public hearing is conducted by an administrative law judge.  The Commission has up to six months from the time the application is accepted to complete the process and make a decision on the permit.  Minn. Rules 7850 | Alternative Review Flowchart.   

Local Review

For certain projects, the applicant can elect to seek authorization from local units of government rather than from the Commission. Qualifying projects are identified in Minnesota Statute 216E.05Minn. Rules 7850.5300 | Local Review Fact Sheet.

Certificate of Need

A certificate of need from the Commission is required for a proposed transmission line that is a large energy facility per Minnesota Statute 216B.2421.  If a certificate of need is required, it must be issued prior to the route permit for the project (Minnesota Statute 216B.243).

Resources

Photo of modern and old windmills

Wind Turbines

The Minnesota Public Utilites Commission is responsible for permitting large wind energy conversion systems (LWECS, wind farms) (Minnesota Statute 216F).  An LWECS is any combination of wind turbines and associated facilities with the capacity to generate five megawatts or more of electricity.  The rules to implement the environmental review and permitting requirements for LWECS are found at Minnesota Rules Chapter 7854

Small wind energy conversion systems (less than five megawatts) are permitted according to local ordinances.  LWECS between five and 25 megawatts can, in lieu of Commission permitting, be permitted by counties if the applicable counties assume permitting responsibility and provide notice to the Commission.

Open Projects

Open projects are projects currently in the permitting process. They are listed here chronologically, most recent projects first. If you do not see a specific wind farm, it may have already been permitted and constructed. To see all projects, search the project database.

Project Size Determination

The Minnesota Department of Commerce (Department) determines the size of wind energy conversion systems under Minnesota Statute Chapter 216F.011.  This determination establishes who has jurisdiction and siting authority (state or local).  An application for local permitting is not complete and cannot be processed without a size determination by the Department. 

Prospective applicants and wind developers can request a project size determination from the Department of Commerce by completing and submitting a Project Size Determination Information Form.  The form is available here as PDF document: Project Size Determination Information Form

State Review

Large wind energy conversion systems (five megawatts and over) are subject to state jurisdiction and review.  Commission rules establish the requirements for submitting and processing an LWECS site permit application (Minnesota Rules Chapter 7854).  The application for a permit must contain, among other things, an analysis of the potential environmental impacts, proposed mitigation measures, and any adverse environmental effects that cannot be avoided.  Review and comment on this analysis constitutes environmental review.

Guidance for LWECS site permit applications is available at:

Application Guidance for Site Permitting of Large Wind Energy Conversion Systems (LWECS) in Minnesota.  

 

Prospective applicants and wind developers are strongly encouraged to utilize this guidance and to contact Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) staff to discuss their projects and applications prior to submitting an application to the Commission. 

The Commission makes an initial decision to accept, conditionally accept, or reject an application. After acceptance of the application, the Commission makes a preliminary determination whether a permit should be issued or denied.  If the determination is to issue a permit, then a draft site permit is prepared and made available for public review.  EERA staff holds public information meetings and solicits comments on the draft site permit.

 

The Commission makes a final decision within 180 days of the acceptance of the application.  If the project is approved, a permit is issued with any conditions the Commission considers necessary to protect the environment, enhance sustainable development, and promote the efficient use of resources. Minn. Rules 7854 | LWECS Permitting Flowchart.   

Local Review

Small wind energy conversion systems (under five megawatts) are subject to local jurisdiction and review (Minnesota Statute 216F.02). Wind energy conversion systems between five and 25 MW can be subject to local jurisdiction if counties, with notice to the Commission, assume permitting responsibility (Minnesota Statute 216F.08). This assumption requires a county board resolution and notice to the Commission.  Counties must incorporate Commission-prescribed general permit standards in all permits that they issue. See the Order Establishing General Permit Standards. Counties may adopt ordinance standards that are more restrictive than the Commission's general permit standards (Minnesota Statute 216F.081).

Counties that have assumed permitting responsibility for wind energy conversion systems between five and 25 MW are listed in the Commission docket: M-07-1102. You can view this docket electronically through eDockets; search using the Year "07" and Number "1102". 

Tall Structure Permits

Wind energy conversion systems near airports may require a permit from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.  Additional information is available on the Department's Aeronautics and Aviation website.

Avian and Bat Studies

As a requirement of the first permit issued for a large wind energy conversion system in 1995, Northern States Power Company was required to conduct an avian study to determine the effect of the turbines on avian mortality. After a four-year study, investigators reported no significant avian impacts in the Buffalo Ridge area from the turbines.  See "Avian Monitoring Studies at the Buffalo Ridge, Minnesota Wind Resource Area Results of a 4-Year Study," September 2000. (273p., 8.3M, PDF 5.0) | report summary

An additional two-year study was required to determine the effect of the turbines on bats.  The final report of that Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Xcel Energy study, "Bat Interactions with Wind Turbines at the Buffalo Ridge, Minnesota Wind Resource Area: An Assessment of Bat Activity, Species Composition and Collision Mortality" was published in November 2003.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (DOC EERA) unit and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) have secured grant funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) through the State Wildlife Grant Program to conduct a study looking at bat fatalities at three operating wind energy facilities in southern Minnesota.  The first two years (2013 and 2014) of the MN Bat Study consist of conducting standardized searches at randomly selected turbines at all three wind energy facilities, and developing baseline bat fatality estimates utilizing the most recent fatality estimate calculations.  The final year of the study will focus on the development, implementation and evaluation of operational curtailment measures, and the associated effects to bat fatality estimates determined with standard searches. 

Bat Fatality Rates and Effects of Changes in Operational Cut-in Speeds at Commercial Wind Farms in Southern Minnesota - Year 1

The wind energy facilities in the study are Big Blue Wind Facility (Faribault County), Oak Glen Wind Facility (Steele County), and Grand Meadow Wind Facility (Mower County).  For additional information on the MN Bat Study please direct your correspondence to DOC-EERA staff, Richard Davis (Richard.Davis@state.mn.us).

Additional studies have been conducted at wind farms throughout the United States and the world.  A summary of the results of these studies is provided in the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative fact sheet: Wind Turbine Interactions with Birds, Bats, and their Habitats: A Summary of Research Results and Priority Questions, Spring 2010.

Resources

Pipelines

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (Commission) is responsible for permitting certain pipelines (Minnesota Statute 216G).  The Commission has jurisdiction over pipelines with a diameter of six inches or more that are designed to transport hazardous liquids like crude petroleum, and those that are designed to carry natural gas and be operated at a pressure of more than 275 pounds per square inch. 

The Commission's authority does not extend to interstate natural gas pipelines regulated under the federal Natural Gas Act and to pipeline owners or operators who are defined as a natural gas public utility under Minnesota Statute 216B.02.  The rules for the environmental review and permitting of piplines are found in Minnesota Rules Chapter 7852.

Open Projects

Open projects are projects currently in the permitting process. They are listed here chronologically, most recent projects first. If you do not see a specific pipeline project, it may have already been permitted and constructed. To see all projects, search the project database.

Full Review

The permitting process to be followed for a pipeline route permit depends on the size and type of the pipeline. The full review process is applicable to pipeline projects anticipated to have significant environmental impacts.  The applicant must identify its preferred route.  Commission staff and Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) staff hold public information meetings and solicit comments on the proposed pipeline project. The Commission considers alternative routes, requests a comparative environmental analysis of routes (CEA), and orders a contested case hearing.  The Commission may authorize that the CEA be prepared by the applicant or by EERA staff.  The contested case hearing is conducted by an administrative law judge.  The Commission uses the criteria in Minnnesota Rule 7852.1900 in selecting a route and issuing a pipeline route permit.  Minn. Rules 7852 | Full Review Flowchart.

Partial Exemption Review

The partial exemption review process is applicable to relatively smaller pipeline projects that are not anticipated to have significant environmental impacts.  Applicants must apply for the partial exemption process.  Comission staff and EERA staff hold public information meetings and solicit comments on the proposed pipeline project.  The Commission may grant or deny the partial exemption.  The Commission uses the criteria in Minnnesota Rule 7852.0700 in determining whether a project qualifies for a partial exemption and pipeline route permit.  If the Commission determines that the project will not have significant environmental impacts, the Commission may issue a pipeline route permit for the project.  If the Commission determines that the project will have significant environmental impacts, the Commission may deny a pipeline route permit under the partial exemption process.  The applicant may then request that their application be considered under the full review process.  Minn. Rules 7852 | Partial Exemption Review Flowchart.

Certificate of Need

A certificate of need from the Commission is required for a proposed pipeline project that is a large energy facility per Minnesota Statute 216B.2421.  In the certificate of need process, the Commission determines the type of facility to be constructed (e.g., new pipe, pump stations, storage tanks), the size of the facility, and when the project must be in service.  The Commission typically orders a contested case hearing for a certificate of need application.  The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources evaluates all pipeline projects requiring a certificate of need according to Minnesota statutes and rules.  EERA staff conducts any environmental analysis requested by the Commission for pipeline projects requiring a certificate of need.  Minn. Rules 7853 | Certificate of Need Flowchart.

 

Resources

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.

Tribal Coordination

Minnesota is home to 11 reservations and 12 federally recognized sovereign tribal nations. There are seven Anishinaabe (Chippewa, Ojibwe) reservations and four Dakota (Sioux) communities. Each tribe is a separate sovereign nation — unique unto itself and distinct from all other federally recognized tribes.

Notices and Meetings

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Mailing Lists

Notice of energy facility permitting milestones and opportunities for participation are sent to persons who sign up for the project mailing list. Notices are sent via regular U.S. mail or by electroncic mail (email), whichever you prefer.

Project Mailing Lists.  Persons who sign up for a project mailing list receive all public notices for that project.  To sign up for a project mailing list, contact the public advisor in the consumer affairs office at the Commission: consumer.puc@state.mn.us, 651-296-0406 or 1-800-657-3782.  If you leave a phone message or send an email, please be sure to include: (1) how you would like to receive notices (regular mail or email) and (2) your complete mailing or email address.

General Contact List.  Persons who sign up for the general contact list receive a notice when: (1) an application for an energy facility is submitted to the Commission, (2) a request for a minor alternation is made to the Commission, and (3) a utility notifies the Commission  that it is seeking local permitting approval for a project.  The general contact list applies to projects statewide.  This list receives only an initial notice and no subsequent notices. To receive subsequent notices for a project, you must sign up for the appropriate project mailing list.

To sign up for the general contact list, contact the public advisor in the consumer affairs office at the Commission: consumer.puc@state.mn.us, 651-296-0406 or 1-800-657-3782.

eDockets and Electronic Subscriptions.  All documents and proceedings of a permitting process are collected in an electronic docket (eDockets). You can subscribe to a docket such that you receive an email every time a submission to the docket is made. To subscribe to a specific docket, you must know the docket number for the docket.  Projects and their docket numbers can be found by clicking on the energy facility tabs on this website, by searching the project database (above), or by searching eDockets.  You can subscribe to an electronic docket here.

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To assist citizens in tracking projects, RSS feeds are available by project and county.  RSS 'pushes' information on projects to you so that you do not have to continually return to project pages to check for updates. More about RSS feeds.

  • By project: On each project docket page, you may click on the RSS icon, RSS icon, to subscribe to the project feed. You will receive notice in your RSS reader whenever a new document is added to that project's file register.
  • By county: Simply select the county you are interested in and you will be subscribed to all the documents relevant to that location:
Citizens can follow energy facility permitting milestones and meetings on Twitter. The Minnesota Department of Commerce sends out a couple of tweets each day on a range of topics, including environmental review of proposed energy facilities. We won't over-tweet, usually only a few a day. We will not tweet on weekends or holidays except in emergencies. The Department's Twitter handle is @MNCommerce. To follow us, click on the button below or follow this link.


Resources

Resources for citizens, agencies, and prospective permit applicants.

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Fact Sheets

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Studies

  • Solar Siting in Agricultural Landscapes: Stakeholder Input Summary: Management Analysis and Development (MAD), at the request of MDA and Commerce, conducted a survey and two facilitated workshops with a workgroup of persons representing organizations with a stake in the solar siting process. The purpose of the meetings was to examine the issues, priorities, and preferences of the stakeholders regarding the siting of large-scale solar facilities in agricultural landscapes, particularly in reference to the prime farmland exclusion rule. This report summarizes that stakeholder input. September 16, 2019
  • Solar Siting and Environmental Review Working Group - Final Report: Recognizing that Minnesota is entering a period of unprecedented solar growth and development, the Minnesota Department of Commerce convened the Solar Siting and Environmental Review Working Group (Working Group) to discuss and identify issues and opportunities related to reviewing, permitting, and siting new solar facilities. The Working Group – a small but broad stakeholder group of advocates, developers, local governments, state agencies, and utilities – agreed there is a state interest in permitting solar facilities below the current 50 MW specified in the Minnesota Power Plant Siting Act. Participants also agreed that a local permitting option should exist for local governments that have ordinances addressing solar facilities. , March 26, 2015 | Report details
  • Bat Fatality Rates and Effects of Changes in Operational Cut-In Speeds at Commercial Wind Farms in Southern Minnesota - Year 1: The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (DOC EERA) unit and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) have secured grant funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) through the State Wildlife Grant Program to conduct a study looking at bat fatalities at three operating wind energy facilities in southern Minnesota. The first two years (2013 and 2014) of the MN Bat Study consist of conducting standardized searches at randomly selected turbines at all three wind energy facilities, and developing baseline bat fatality estimates utilizing the most recent fatality estimate calculations. The final year of the study will focus on the development, implementation and evaluation of operational curtailment measures, and the associated effects to bat fatality estimates determined with standard searches. The wind energy facilities in the study are Big Blue Wind Facility (Faribault County), Oak Glen Wind Facility (Steele County), and Grand Meadow Wind Facility (Mower County). For additional information on the MN Bat Study please direct your correspondence to DOC EERA staff, Richard Davis (Richard.Davis@state.mn.us). , May 23, 2014 | Report details
  • Barriers and Opportunities for Post-Construction Wildlife Monitoring at Wind energy Facilities in the Great Lakes Region: Dovetail Partners Inc. report examining barriers to, and opportunities for, post-construction wildlife monitoring, focusing on wind energy facilities in the Great Lakes region (including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin). , November 26, 2012 | Publication details
  • International Wind Energy Policies: An international review of policies and recommendations for wind turbine setbacks from residences, April 27, 2012 | Report details
  • Summary of Wind Energy Policies by Country: A summary table of policies and recommendations for wind turbine setbacks from residences, April 27, 2012 | Report details
  • Post-Construction Monitoring of Wind Projects: Data Gaps and Recommendations for Further Research in Minnesota: Report summarizing avian impacts of wind projects, identifying data gaps, and recommending further research on impacts to birds and bats in Minnesota, December 21, 2010 | Publication details
  • Public Health Impacts of Wind Turbines: An evaluation of the potential health effects of low frequency vibrations and sound associated with wind turbines , May 29, 2009 | Report details
  • Electric and Magnetic Field (EMF) Policy and Mitigation Options: A white paper on electric and magnetic fields (EMF) prepared by the Minnesota state interagency working group - September 2002; posted, January 1, 2009 | Report details
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Maps

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Guidance for Applicants

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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.

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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, https://www.edockets.state.mn.us/EFiling/edockets/searchDocuments.do?method=showeDocketsSearch&searchType=new).  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, http://www.mn.gov/commerce/energyfacilities).  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:

  • Libraries.  Important documents in a permitting process are often available for review at local public libraries.  These libraries are listed in the public notices for each project.  Typically, libraries will have a copy of (1) the permit application, (2) the environmental review document, and (3) the transcript from the public hearing.

  • Mailed Notices.  You can elect to receive print copies of notices of public meetings, public hearings, and other permitting events by mail (see "How Can I Stay Informed?" below).

  • Requests.  Most project documents can be printed and mailed to people upon request.  Direct your request to the Department's environmental review manager for the project or the Commission's public advisor (see "How Can I Get Help?" below).  Printing and mailing large documents or large numbers of documents is expensive and not environmentally friendly.  Large documents are made available at public libraries.     

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:

  • Project Mailing List.  All energy facility projects have a project mailing list that is used to send notice of project milestones and comment opportunities.  Notices are sent by email or U.S. mail — whatever works best for you.  When you sign up for the mailing list, indicate your preference for receiving notices.  To sign up for a mailing list, contact the Consumer Affairs Office at the Commission: consumer.puc@state.mn.us, 651-296-0406 or 1-800-657-3782.  

  • eDockets Subscription.  You can subscribe to a project docket in eDockets so you receive an email every time a document is filed in that docket.  You may get a lot of email if you subscribe to a project docket (you'll get an email for every document), but it assures you will get notice of all public comment opportunities. 

  • RSS Feeds.  You can sign up for Real Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds from the Department's energy facilities website.  Feeds are available by project and by county.  Feeds provide notice and links to every document posted on the Department energy facilities website for a specific project or for projects in a specific county.

  • Newspapers.  Finally, you can keep abreast of public meetings and public hearings through local newspapers.  Notices of meetings and hearing are published in local newspapers several weeks before they occur. 

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.

  • Public Meetings.  Once you know of a public meeting that you're intrested in...attend and participate!  Make a comment!  Meetings always include a discussion of the proposed project and opportunities to ask questions and make comments and suggestions.
     

    Importantly, early public meetings provide an opportunity to shape the environmental review for the project.  This is your chance to propose alternative routes and sites that should be studied in the environmental review.  If you think there's a better route for a transmission line or a better location for a power plant, then propose your alternative.  If you don't propose your alternative for the Commission to consider, it most likely won't be considered.

    There is always a comment period after a meeting, typically 10 days or more.  So, if you think of a comment or an alternative after the meeting, you can still get it in.  Make sure you get your comments in by the comment period deadline.  All meeting notices include how to comment, where to comment, and the comment period deadline.  For comment periods where comments are directed to Department staff, you can comment directly on the Department's energy facilities website.

    For public meetings, a record of public comments is created by a court reporter.  These comments, plus all written comments received are part of the record and are put in eDockets.  People can then see all of the comments received for a specific project, including their own.

  • Public Hearings.  All permitting processes include a public hearing.  In form, a hearing is basically a more formal public meeting.  It is typically presided over by an administrative law judge (ALJ).  Public hearings require public notice, so if you've signed up for mail or electronic notice, you will automatically be informed of the time and place for the hearing.
     

    Once you know of a public hearing that you're interested in ... attend and participate!  Make a comment!  Hearings are an opportunity for citizens to advocate — to make thei$ case for what they believe is the most appropriate location for the proposed project, how it should be constructed and operated, and why.  There is a comment period after the public hearing; the notice will describe how to send comments to the judge.  Printed copies of hearing transcripts are made available at public libraries for citizens to review.

    Some permitting processes include a special type of public hearing, a contested case hearing.  These hearings provide another possible way to participate in the permitting process.  Persons, organizations, and other entities that feel they have a unique stake in the permitting of a proposed project can intervene and become a party to the hearing.  Requests to intervene and become a party must be directed to the ALJ for the hearing.  You can find out who the ALJ is and how to intervene by reading the judge's pre-hearing order.  You can find the pre-hearing order in the project docket in eDockets.

    Intervening requires a higher level of participation in the public hearing process.  It requires you to be more involved in the hearing and to interact with the ALJ and parties to the hearing.  It takes more time and energy.  Some people find it helpful to hire a lawyer to assist them in intervening and participating as a party, but it is not required.

  • Public Utilities Commission Meetings.  After all the public meetings, environmental review, and public hearings, there is a substantial record on which the Commission can make a permit decision about a project.  Anyone can attend Commission meetings.  The Commission, at its discretion, may or may not take public comment at the Commission meetings.  You can find out how the Commission will handle meeting logistics by contacting Commission staff.  Notice of the Commission meeting at which permit issuance will be considered is sent to those persons on the project mailing list and placed in eDockets.

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.

  • Q: If a transmission line route is permitted near my property such that I can see the line, but the transmission line does not actually cross$

    A: No. Compensation is due only to those property owners whose property is crossed by the transmission line. For these folks, the utility will likely purchase an easement and must provide just compensation for the easement.
Tribal Flags
Photo: MNDOT Communications

 

As sovereign nations, each tribe has an independent relationship with the United States and the State of Minnesota. The Minnesota Commerce Department recognizes the unique sovereign status of federally recognized tribes, the cultural values of all American Indian tribes in Minnesota, and is committed to strengthening the government-to-government relationship with the tribes.

Consultation or Coordination? 

Tribal consultation occurs between sovereign nations, or government to government. Tribes consult directly with the state of Minnesota. Coordination occurs between tribes and state agencies, between tribal staff and agency staff. 

The Commerce Department engages in both tribal consultation and tribal coordination with tribal nations.  EERA is committed to working with tribes and coordinating on a broad range of issues related to the siting and routing of utility scale energy projects in Minnesota.

 

In 2019, Governor Walz signed Executive Order 19-24, affirming the government-to-government relationship between the State of Minnesota and Indian Tribal Governments within Minnesota.

The Commerce Department has also developed and is implementing an agency-wide Consultation Policy. The policy provides for consultation, coordination and cooperation between Commerce and Tribal Governments. 

Consultation is the government-to-government process of meaningful communication and coordination between Commerce and Tribal officials prior to Commerce taking actions or implementing decisions that may directly affect Tribal Interests. Consultation emphasizes trust, respect, and shared responsibility. It is an open and free exchange of information and opinions among parties, which leads to mutual understanding and comprehension. 

Coordination is the process by which each party shares and compares, in a timely manner, its plans, programs, projects, and schedules with the related plans, programs, projects, and schedules of the other parties; and adjusts its plans, programs, projects, and schedules to optimize the efficient and consistent delivery of Commerce-related projects and services. 

Consultation and coordination set the framework and tone for staff to collaborate on more of a day-to-day and project-specific basis allowing staff to understand the issues, listen to each other, and work better together. This level of collaboration is important in respecting the time of both Tribal and State leadership to address more substantive issues that require their attention.   

Scene of Tribal Training at a table
Photo: MNDOT Communications
Person viewing presentation on Why treaties matter
Photo: MNDOT Communications
Solar Panels at Leech Lake
Photo: Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

 

Most energy projects permitted by the Minnesota Public Utilites Commission do not have a federal nexus (e.g., federal funding). For these projects, only state environmental rules apply. For those projects that do have a federal nexus, both federal and state rules will apply. 

Federal Rules

The National Historic Preservation Act requires all federal agencies to consult with Indian Tribes for undertakings which may affect properties of traditional religious and cultural significance on or off Tribal lands. Working with Section 106:

Tribal consultation also occurs on projects requiring Section 404 permits from the U.S. Army Corps or Engineers (USACE).

State Rule -- Environmental Review in Minnesota

Environmental review of energy projects must consider impacts to archaeological sites, which includes tribal resources on public lands and the protection of human remains and burials.  Environmental Review is governed by MN Rules 4410

The Minnesota State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) consults with applicants, as well as federal and state government agencies, to identify historic properties and ways to avoid or reduce adverse effects on those properties. If a permit is issued for a project permitted by the PUC, the SHPO will continue to work with applicants and other agencies to identify, evaluate, and protect archaeological and historic resources.

Minnesota Statutes sections 138.31-138.42 require licensure for field archaeology undertaken on all lands or waters owned, leased by, or subject to the paramount right of the state or its subdivisions, as well as on lands affected by publicly funded development projects. Proposed projects are reviewed to assess the appropriateness of research methodology and to assist in identifying strategies for mitigating potential adverse effects on known cultural resources. Only professional archaeologists meeting the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Archaeology (36 Code of Federal Regulations Part 61) may be licensed to conduct such investigations in the State of Minnesota.

Minnesota’s Private Cemeteries Act (Minnesota Statutes 307.08) protects all human remains and burials older than 50 years and located outside of platted, recorded, or identified cemeteries from unauthorized disturbance, whether on public or private lands or waters. In the event that a burial is either known or suspected to be associated with American Indian peoples, the Office of the State Archeologist work together with the MIAC to ensure the integrity of these sites. The Office of the State Archaeologist maintains a database of identified burial sites in the state.

The Minnesota Indian Affairs Countil (MIAC) shares legal responsibility for monitoring and enforcing laws that protect Indian human remains and associated burial items. The MIAC reviews archaeological license applications to conduct fieldwork to determine if a burial or cemetery is within a project area. The authority for the MIAC is contained in Minnesota Statute section 138.31, Field Archaeology Act.

Green Steps Tribal Nation Road Sign
Photo: Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

 

Each Tribe has its own government and governmental structure. The list below provides links to each tribe's webapage. The Minnesota Indian Affairs Council (MIAC) also provides information on tribal nations. 

A list of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPO) can be found here. THPOs should be contacted early in the project planning and development process.

Bois Forte Band of Chippewa
The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa is located in northern Minnesota, approximately sixty miles south and west of International Falls, MN.

Fond Du Lac Reservation
The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation lies in Northeastern Minnesota adjacent to the city of Cloquet, MN, approximately 20 miles west of Duluth, MN. The Fond du Lac Reservation, established by the LaPointe Treaty of 1854, is one of six Reservations inhabited by members of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe.

Grand Portage Band of Chippewa Indians
The Grand Portage Reservation, located in Cook County at the extreme northeastern tip of Minnesota, encompasses a historic fur trade site with a spectacular North Woods-Lake Superior shoreline. The reservation extends about 18 miles along the lakeshore and from nine miles to a quarter mile inland.

Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
The Leech Lake Reservation, located in the forests of north-central Minnesota, offers an oasis of natural beauty. Towering pines fringe the reservations many lakes, two of which are among the largest in the state.

Lower Sioux Indian Community
The Lower Sioux Indian Community is located on the south side of the Minnesota River at the site of the U.S. Indian Agency and the Bishop Whipple Mission, a part of the original reservation established in the 1851 Treaty. It is in Redwood County, two miles south of Morton and six miles east of Redwood Falls.

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
History, tribal government, educational material, links to casinos and museum.

Prairie Island Indian Community
Prairie Island Indian Community is located in southeastern Minnesota, north of Red Wing, between Highway 61 and the Mississippi River. The people of Prairie Island are Mdewakanton Dakota and have lived on Prairie Island for countless generations.

Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
Historical information, tribal planning, employment and training, Pow-wow pages, gaming, telephone directory and more.

Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community
The Shakopee-Mdewakanton Reservation is located entirely within the city limits of Prior Lake, in Scott County, Minnesota. The reservation was known as the Prior Lake Reservation until its reorganization under the Indian Reorganization Act on November 28, 1969. The tribal headquarters is in Prior Lake, Minnesota.

Upper Sioux Community
The land called Pejuhutazzi Kapi (the place where they dig for yellow medicine) has been the homeland of the Dakota Oyate (Nation), for thousands of years. The Upper Sioux Community is located in Yellow Medicine County.

White Earth Reservation
The White Earth Reservation is located in the northwestern Minnesota counties of Mahnomen, Becker, and Clearwater. The reservation is located 68 miles from Fargo and 225 miles from Minneapolis/St. Paul. Tribal headquarters are in White Earth, Minnesota.