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Perceptions of the Environmental Review Process in Minnesota.

Anderson, Beth A. and Terence H. Cooper.

The Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) of 1973 established a process for reviewing impacts of major public and private development projects. Companion legislation created the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, which was authorized to determine which proposed projects would be subjected to an environmental impact statement (EIS) to assess their potential environmental effects. During the 1980s, decision-making authority regarding the necessity of an EIS was given to the responsible governmental unitラgenerally a city, county, or state agency. To aid the responsible governmental unit in making this determination, the Environmental Quality Board implemented the environmental assessment worksheet (EAW), an information-gathering tool intended to help assess the environmental impacts of proposed development projects. The objective of this study was to analyze the perceptions of individuals in the public and private sectors who read, write, collect data for, or comment on EAWs, and assess how their perceptions affect the environmental review process. Because these individuals are ultimately responsible for implementing MEPA mandates, understanding their perceptions of and concerns about the environmental review process is important to evaluating the consistency and effectiveness of the process across the state. Based on extensive surveys and interviews, the authors conclude that the EAW process is an effective tool to ensure better policy decisions about projects that have the potential to affect Minnesota's environment, but that the process is neither as efficient nor as effective as it could be. Policy makers must recognize that the EAW has become a full-fledged tool for documenting environmental impacts rather than 'a brief document prepared in worksheet format which is designed to rapidly assess the environmental effects which may be associated with a proposed project' as originally intended by statute. Changing the statute to reflect this change would make clearer to participants the purpose of the process and help to ensure that the significant environmental effects of proposed development projects are assessed consistently, completely, and accurately.

CURA Reporter
Publication date: 
Minneapolis: Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, University of Minnesota.
Partially funded by a grant from CURA's Faculty Interactive Research Prograqm, with additional funding from the Departmemt of Soil, Water, and Climate at the University of Minnesota.
33 (2): 9-13.
Online availability
Download from CURA: 
CURA call number: 
Reporter 33 (2)