Relevant Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 216E.04/Minn. Rules 7850.2800 to 7850.3900
Permitting Timeline: 6 months after the application is considered complete, but the timeline can be extended by three months for good cause or with the agreement of the applicant.
The PUC Role: The Commission reviews applications, helps build the record, holds a public meeting, and the Commissioners will make the final decision about whether to issue a site or route permit.
Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
Department of Commerce – Energy Environmental Review and Analysis
Office of Administrative Hearings – Administrative Law Judge
The alternative review process has many of the same procedural steps and informational requirements as the full process, but there are clear differences. An applicant under the alternative process does not have to propose an alternative site or route as is required of applicants under the full process. In addition, the type of environmental review is an environmental assessment (EA) instead of an environmental impact statement. Additionally, unlike the full review process, an application reviewed under the alternative process does not require the presentation and cross-examination of witnesses in the court-like proceedings known as evidentiary hearings.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) is tasked with preparing an environmental assessment, on behalf of the Commission. The environmental assessment will contain information on the human and environmental impacts of the proposed project and alternatives, as well as ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate potential impacts. As part of developing the environmental assessment, the EERA will hold a public meeting with an accompanying written comment period where the public will have the opportunity to develop the scope of the environmental assessment and alternatives to be examined. When the EERA has completed the environmental assessment, a public hearing will be held. The hearing will be presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) from the Office of Administrative Hearings. Members of the public will have an opportunity to make an oral presentation, present evidence, and ask questions of the applicant and agency staff. After the public comment period is over the judge will provide a written report to the Commission.
Upon completion of the public hearing and after receiving the report from the ALJ, the Commission will review all the information in the record, including public comments, and decide whether to issue a route permit. If a permit is issued, it will identify permit requirements and measures to mitigate potential impacts. The applicants cannot begin constructing the project unless a permit is issued.