Minnesota's legislative auditor said Tuesday that the state's process for environmental review of private-sector jobs is too often burdened by delays, uncertainty and duplication of effort.
The report, due to be reviewed by state lawmakers later in the day, found inconsistencies in expertise and experience among various state government agencies charged with managing environmental assessments and environmental impact statements.
It said agencies such as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources lack adequate data to measure or monitor the timeliness of their environmental review and permitting processes, and identify needed improvements.
"The time PCA or DNR took to issue environmental permits varied considerably," the report said. "PCA took less than a day to issue some water permits but more than a year for hazardous waste permits. Timeliness varied by permit area and type but also due to factors such as the projects' complexity and the completeness of proposers' initial applications and data."
Between them, the Pollution Control Agency and the DNR along with various local government agencies are charged with issuing permits for everything from animal feedlots to mines.
In projects where such permitting is required, state law prohibits businesses undertaking the projects from starting construction until the process is complete.
From fiscal years 2007 to 2010, the state handled 229 environmental assessments and seven environmental impact statements for private sector proposals.
On Monday, the Minnesota House passed and sent to Gov. Mark Dayton a bill aimed at speeding up the environmental review and permitting process under scrutiny in the auditor's report. The bill sets a goal for the state to rule on permit applications within 150 days.
Earlier this year, the Democratic governor implemented several aspects of the legislative proposal with an executive order. He said Monday he needed to review the full bill before deciding whether to sign or veto it.
Some legislative Democrats had raised concern about a provision that would allow businesses to commission their own draft environmental reviews, calling it a conflict of interest.
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