An Update on Minnesota’s Environmental Review Program and Climate Change

January 12, 2023
By Alison Harwood, Director of Natural Resources, WSB

The Environmental Quality Board (EQB), the authority on Minnesota’s Environmental Review program, has released a new required form and process to incorporate climate-related information into the environmental review process. Environmental reviews are required on projects of certain densities, sizes, and/or types and can include Environmental Assessment Worksheets (EAWs), Alternative Urban Areawide Reviews (AUARs), or Environmental Impact Statements.

Prior to 2021, information related to climate change was not part of the environmental review process. A project’s potential to impact the environment focused on resources such as water resources, wildlife, habitat, soils, and noise as well as public infrastructure and transportation. In 2021, several public agencies participated in a pilot program to test the effectiveness of proposed changes to the EAW form that incorporated information related to climate change. Based on the outcome of that pilot project, the EQB voted to replace the previous EAW form with a new one that includes several additions related to climate change assessment and estimating a carbon footprint.

Any projects that required and began an environmental review document after December 14, 2022 are required to use the new form. The new form includes several additions related to climate, including:

  • Assessment of climate trends related to the proposed project
  • Evaluation of climate adaptation potential and resiliency of the proposed project design
  • Evaluation of existing or proposed green infrastructure
  • Estimation of greenhouse gas emissions/carbon footprint of the proposed project

The EQB has a guidance document available for developing a carbon footprint and incorporating the climate change information into the environmental review process. WSB is available to help navigate this new process and keep your projects on track. Reach out to Alison Harwood with questions.

Alison leads the Natural Resources group. Her experience includes work in the natural resources field, including wetland and avian surveys, permitting, alternatives analysis, and environmental documentation for projects in both the public and private sector.

[email protected] | 612.360.1320

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