Process Relevant Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 216E/Minn. Rules 7850 Permitting
Timeline: 1 year 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 make the final decision about whether to issue a site or route permit.
Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
Department of Commerce – Division of Energy Resources
Department of Commerce – Energy Environmental Review and Analysis
Office of Administrative Hearings – Administrative Law Judge
Applicant for a permit Permitting
Under the full permitting process, the Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Environmental Review and Analysis (EERA) unit is tasked with preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS), on behalf of the Commission, for all proposed large electric power facilities. The EIS must contain information on the human and environmental impacts of the proposed project and alternatives, as well as a discussion of ways to avoid, minimize, or mitigate those potential impacts. As part of the EIS drafting process, the EERA is required to hold a public meeting and solicit public comments about the scope of the EIS and alternatives.
First a draft EIS is developed. Once a draft EIS has been issued, the EERA, will hold at least one public meeting and open a public comment period to provide the public an opportunity to comment on the draft EIS.
Once the draft EIS has been issued, the public meeting held, and the comment period on it has closed, the Commission will hold at least one public hearing and will open a public comment period to provide the public an opportunity to comment on the merits of the permit application, and the entire record that has been developed on the proposed project. The public hearing is presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) from the Office of Administrative Hearings. Members of the public have an opportunity to make an oral presentation, present evidence, and ask questions of the applicant, official parties, and agency staff.
In the final EIS the EERA responds to the comments received on the draft EIS. After the final EIS has been issued, the Commission will, at the time of its final decision on the permit application, determine the adequacy of the final EIS. If the Commission determines the EIS is not adequate, it will direct the EERA to correct the deficiencies and submit a revised EIS.
In addition to a public hearing, the full permit review process requires what are known as “evidentiary hearings.” These hearings are also presided over by an ALJ. Evidentiary hearings are court-like proceedings where expert witnesses of official parties to the case, are cross-examined by representatives of the other parties to the case.
After the evidentiary hearings are completed, the ALJ will write a report entitled Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Recommendation. The Report of the ALJ is a comprehensive review of the process and the information contained in the record. After the report is efiled into the docket, parties to the matter have an opportunity to file exceptions to the ALJ Report. The Commission then reviews the entire record, and will hold a public agenda meeting on the matter and make a determination on whether to issue a permit. If a permit is issued, it will identify terms and conditions on how the project will be constructed and operated. Applicants cannot begin to construct the project until the pre-construction terms and conditions contained in the permit are met.