Bill streamlining MN environmental reviews advances at Capitol

A House committee on Wednesday approved a bill to streamline the environmental review and permitting process.

The bill picks up where last year's streamlining law left off.

It would allow project proposers to hire a consultant who can actually draft permits, a job currently in the hands of the Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources.

But Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, said the state still would have final authority.

"No matter what you do in regards to filing your application, the PCA and DNR still have to approve," Fabian said.

The bill says the state agencies must respond to permit applications within 30 days, and must approve the plans unless they are "clearly erroneous under statute or rule."

The PCA said it's not sure it has enough staff to respond within 30 days.

"Some of these permits, as all of us know, are hundreds of pages long," said Jeff Smith, director of the PCA's industrial division. "I'll be pulling staff away from working on somebody else's permit to have to do this review, and I'm doubtful that we can do it within 30 days given the resources we have today."

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