One of the primary purposes for Environmental Review is to inform decision makers about project effects and measures that can be taken to avoid or minimize the severity of those effects. Key decision makers are governmental units that require various project permits or approvals. EQB Rules prohibit final decisions on permits and approvals for projects that are subject to environmental review, until the review is complete.
Tying permitting to Environmental Review acknowledges the purpose of the MEPA process, which is to inform decision makers and enhance decisions. Permit decisions should reflect the discussions, modifications, and mitigation suggested during early coordination and document review.
The MDNR regulates alterations of public waters, water appropriation, the crossings of public lands and waters, aquatic plant control, metallic mineral and peat mining, listed species taking, and other activities. Unless no feasible and prudent alternative exists, the MEPA and the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA) prohibit state agencies from permitting projects that will cause pollution, impairment, or destruction of the environment. As mentioned above, one of the purposes of Environmental Review is to help inform permitting decisions. By tying Environmental Review to permitting, that is, treating Environmental Review as an integral part of the permitting process (and vice versa), MDNR specialists ensure that MDNR-issued and other permits address impacts and mitigation identified during review.
The department also reviews and comments on non-MDNR permits (e.g., Wetland Conservation Act mitigation plans, Clean Water Act Section 404 permits, NPDES permits, and pipeline routing permits) and contributes to the environmental decisions of other local, state, and federal agencies by reviewing other documents (e.g., local water plans, comprehensive land-use plans, and watershed district plans).