Starts in Rochester on Tuesday MORNING at 9:30 a.m.  Whose brilliant idea was that, who can show up at 9:30 a.m. on a Tuesday?

How did this slashing of environmental review, started under Gov. Pawlenty, continue under Gov. Mark Dayton?  It started right after Dayton got into office, with Executive Order 11-04, gutting and muzzling the MPCA and DNR:

E.O. 11-04 Establishing Goals and Procedures to Ensure that Certain Environmental Permits are Issued More Efficiently

That E.O. pushed the MPCA and DNR to ram through permits through FAST (and delay has NOT been a demonstrable problem, because the delays have been caused by applicants not providing required information) as if that “improves” environmental review.

And then comes Gov. Dayton’s Executive Order 11-32, which started this round:

Executive Order 11-32

He’s pushing for “streamlining” and those words are just so wrongheaded.  And they way he’s doing it, all this activity at the EQB making recommendations on “improving environmental review” and “governance and coordination” BEFORE they have the public meetings and this “Environmental Congress.”  So tell me, how is it that the fix isn’t in, and we’re now going through the motions after it’s already a done deal?  Do tell, how are these “oh-so-proud we’re DFL” Democrats any better than the “strip-the-funding-until-regulation-collapses” Republicans?  It’s bad news any way you look at it.

But yes, let’s look at it.

Here’s what the EQB released last week.  Deputy Commissioner Bill Grant (Settlement Agreement – ME3(Fresh Energy), Izaak Walton League, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, North American Water Office) now in charge of Energy Facilities Permitting, and Matt Langan (who now works for Xcel, so two different sources have said, way to go Matt… sigh… after blowing environmental review on CapX Hampton-La Crosse, omitting transmission where there’s a HUGE corridor, and saying there’s transmission where there is none, GOOD JOB!) were to do the “Report Card.”  They have no business doing any such thing, are uniquely disqualified.  But Matt left, leaving Bill Grant… that environmental review is in any way in his hands is disturbing.

Reading the Evaluation and Recommendations for Improving Environmental Review, maybe the Comments got through to some extent.  The ultimate recommendations are better than the draft, for sure.

OH MY!  The Recommendations for Environmental Governance and Coordination are even better, recommending no changes to recognizing that there isn’t sufficient staff to do the work.  The MPCA part could still be a problem, as it recommends MPCA address how to change, so keep on it!

Some of the meetings are this week, starting Tuesday at TOO EARLY O’CLOCK!  It looks to me that Ellen Anderson is doing for Dayton what Mike Bull did for Pawlenty (well, among other things), these dog and pony shows across the state.  I’ve been passing out handouts about this hoping to get folks to turn out and give them a piece of their mind about what “improvement” of environmental review should mean.   Handout – RW Forum

Blue Check Mark November 27 – Rochester, Wood Lake Meeting Center 9:30am – 12:00pm

Blue Check Mark November 27 – Bloomington, Normandale Community College 6:30pm – 9:00pm

Blue Check Mark November 28 – Duluth, Lake Superior College 5:30pm – 8:00pm

Blue Check Mark December 10 – Worthington, Worthington High School 3:30pm – 6:00pm

Blue Check Mark December 12 – St. Cloud, Stearns County Service Center 5:30pm – 8:00pm

Blue Check Mark December 14 – Moorhead, Minnesota State University 3:00pm – 5:30pm



From the Stop the Lines! site – check it out!

The National Park Service is holding scoping hearings next week, these are important.  Comment period is from January 21, 2010 to March 5, 2010.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Fernwood Hotel (Victorian Room)
Route 209 North
Bushkill, PA.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Camp Jefferson
81 Weldon Road
Lake Hopatcong, NJ

Thursday, February 18, 2010
Sheraton Parsippany Hotel
199 Smith Road

These are scoping meetings, to determine the scope of the National Park Service review of this project, and they’re soliciting comments.  Comment period is from January 21, 2010 to March 5, 2010.   They have issued an internal scoping document, and that’s worth a look see to figure out how they’re looking at it:

NPS Internal Scoping Report

Comment period is from January 21, 2010 to March 5, 2010. 

NPS – Newsletter with background and “How-To”

NPS, which has jurisdiction over the section of route that traverses, or PLANS to traverse, the Delaware Water Gap, is requiring a look at all three routes that were originally “proposed” for the Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line:


This makes sense because NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, requires consideration of alternatives, but I’m not sure that just because the project proposers said these were the alternatives considered that “alternatives” should be limited to these three options.  And what about system alternatives?

How will this NPS review come down?  This is NOT my area, I don’t know much about it so let’s learn together here!

NPS Home Page for Susquehanna-Roseland Transmission Project

Comment period is from January 21, 2010 to March 5, 2010.


Minnesota’s “Executive Branch” is at it again, slashing and burning environmental review, which could be dangerous for branches, particularly in St. Paul, home of Anders “vood” Rydaker

Anyway, we got notice the day before yesterday that Comments are due TOMORROW!  Once again they want to gut environmental review, but they’re not really saying, it’s just more of the same, i.e. “some say” or “here’s one option” and not being straight about what’s driving this.  And some may say “The legislature is making them do it…” But we know…


aAnd send them to your favorite legislators.

Here are the primary documents they’re basing this on, with some… ahem… novel ideas:

Powerpoints from Sept 29 meeting

Tech Report to EQB

Year after year after year after year after year… How many times must we go through this?  I guess as long as there’s a Chamber Pot of Commerce.  How many times do we have to sue over environmental review, makes me wanna puke.  HOW DARE THEY!

Here’s what I sent, what can I say, I had a severe case of bee up butt:

Comment of Overland

And an Alert from Alan Muller:

Public comment closes TOMORROW, October 14th, at 4:30.
Send comments to ,

(And copy your legislators!)

We just found out about–thanks to Stephanie Henrickson–an effort to “streamline” the Minnesota environmental review process (EAW/EIS) in favor of developers and polluters. (AGAIN, says Atty. Carol Overland, who should know.)

One proposal by would apparently end the ability of citizens to petition for an Environmental Impact Statement.

Background:  The legislature in 2008 passed HF 2123 — Omnibus Environmental Finance Bill, including:

By February 15, 2010, the commissioner of the Pollution Control Agency, in consultation with staff from the Environmental Quality Board, shall submit a report to the environment and natural resources policy and finance committees of the house and senate on options to streamline the environmental review process under Minnesota Statutes, chapter 116D. In preparing the report, the commissioner shall consult with state agencies, local government units, and business, agriculture, and environmental advocacy organizations with an interest in the environmental review process. The report shall include options that will reduce the time required to complete environmental review and the cost of the process to responsible governmental units and project proposers while maintaining or improving air, land, and water quality standards.

The problem with this, of course, is that HF 2123 doesn’t call for “improving” or “strengthening” environmental review, but only for “streamlining” it.  Streamlining is a code work for weakening.

The PCA “consulted” by holding a public meeting on September 29 of which no record was kept.  We are told that representatives of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and Clean Water action attended.  The MPCA is accepting “written streamlining options” until 4:30 on October 14th.

In a presentation, Jess Richards of the PCA put forth “examples of options,” stating “however, the MPCA is not really advocating for any of these options.”  ( Another report with mostly historical discussion.)  The proposed “options” are all bad news:

1.      “Undo decision link between EAW and EIS”

“Under this option an EAW could no longer lead to an EIS.  Only the mandatory EIS thresholds would lead to preparation of an EIS.” In other words, no more discretionary EIS’s in response to citizen petitions.

Fran Sauer wrote: “…if this type of regulation had been in place in 2002, we would not have been able to seek an EIS.  We may not have been able to challenge the MPCA and the MPCA Citizens Board and eventually get an EIS ordered. The door would have been slammed shut and we would, most likely, be living with the effects of a tire burning plant in SE MN.”

2.       “Customize EAW forms to specific sectors.”

This seems intended to focus on already-recognized issues and prevent the raising of new ones.  “This is currently in place for feedlot EAWs…. this form focuses on the number of animal units and manure handling.  Other possible sectors that may benefit from this include [sewer plants], residential development, and sand and gravel operation.”

3.      “Early Public Engagement”

This basically means that project proposers would be encouraged or required to propagandize the public in favor of their projects.  On option for doing is this is “Require the proposer to develop a public communications plan as part of the project submittal.”

From Mr. Richards or his colleagues we get this pure industrial propaganda:

“Stall tactics: … there will always be instances where the NIMBY approach takes effect.  In these cases the public may use the ER process to create delays and to stall the RGU’s decision making process.  In these cases, no answer by the proposer or RGU is adequate in their eyes and they will use all possible options to slow or stop the project…. This situation can sometimes be mitigated by a strong public engagement effort by the proposer.” [That is, some uppity citizens actually want a say about what happens.]

4.      “Eliminate duplication between environmental review and permitting”

“Essentially this would use a checklist or some method to analyze which issues are covered by the permit process.  If the checklist determines that these issues are covered in permitting then they would not be included in the EAW.” Examples offered by the MPCA include “air risk/modelling, wastewater discharge, and stormwater management.” This would be disastrous because none of these areas–for example–are adequately covered by permitting requirements–aren’t the air and water still polluted?–and the opportunity for more comprehensive review would be gone.  The MPCA puts it this way: “…any items that are covered by a permit would not be subject to a decision on significant potential for environmental effects.” This “Would limit the scope of the decisions and provide ” …Fewer opportunities for public input on permit-related issues.”

(Says Overland: “Isn’t environmental review a PART of the permitting process, not covered elsewhere? — the most basic environmental review?”)

5.       “Green-streamlining” for existing facilities”

Experience shows that this would mean more exemptions and other special treatment for many of the most undesirable projects such as ethanol plants, feedlots, transmission lines, garbage incinerators and “biomass” burners.  It is also absurd because if a proposal was actually green why would it need exemption from rigorous environmental review?

As of this afternoon the MPCA had received only three comments.

R. L. Sauer MD, of Preston, MN, wrote (excerpts):

” … this streamlining can only be at the behest of developers and politicians that consider demonstrating best practices in environmental stewardship a tedious, unnecessary, expensive delay.  A delay that cuts into their bottom line with no benefit to the community as a whole.”

” … those involved with any “streamlining” should look in the mirror every morning and remind themselves that there are 3 million plus “stakeholders” in every project that has any potential to impact the environments air, water, or soil. Short cuts, it is often said, make long delays. In the case of environmental review it may make super fund sites. Worse than that it may make some of those 3 million sick … Removing the citizenry from the ability to petition the court for more extensive review should be discarded as a viable option.”

On the other side, Steve Menden, Vice President, Wenck Associates [A firm that works with developers of polluting facilities such as wood burners] writes:

[Does not like] “Inability of the Env. Rev. process to recognize state priorities – like energy (wind and biomass projects), solid waste incineration etc.” [That is, politically favored industries should get special treatment.]

“Need to find some way to prevent project opponents from using the ER process to slow down/stop a project without jeopardizing the public involvement process – which is important.” [That is, “public involvement” should be feel-good stuff without any real impacts.]

What you can do:

Send Ms. Heffron and Mr. Downing and your state senator and representative an email NOW, indicating your objections to these and any other proposals to weaken the Minnesota environmental review process, and to extend the public comment period at least three weeks.

If you belong to any public-interest organizations, ask them to oppose the proposed “streamlining.”

Some ideas for comments:

1)  Changes to the review process must demonstrate that they maintain or improve the environment – not merely result from developer political pressure to eliminate or reduce environmental review;
2) Public input on EAWs can improve projects and have positive results with site specific information on projects that the blanket EQB Rule categories do not address;
3) EAWs should potentially lead to EISs where site specific concerns demonstrate the need for additional study. This is a critical link in the existing process to maintain or improve the environment in specific locations;
4) Delays in project  development often result more from the developer’s slow turn around on submitting information or initially submitting incomplete/inaccurate information than from the public input portion of the process.

Alan Muller
Energy & Environmental Consulting