An environmental review is the process of reviewing a project and its potential environmental impacts to determine whether it meets federal, state, and local environmental standards. The environmental review process allows identification of issues to allow protection of environmental resources, it is not an approval process.
Why Does My Project Require an Environmental Review?
The environmental review process is typically required for use of federal funds, federal funds made available through state agencies, or for project developments that exceed established state environmental review standards. The process also provides opportunity for agency coordination and public involvement during project development.
Environmental review can be required under a variety of circumstances and agency guidelines. The Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) defines project types and development thresholds that require review according to the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) guidelines. The unit of government responsible for decision-making, or the Responsible Governmental Unit (RGU), is typically assigned to the unit having the greatest responsibility to approve or carry out the project.
Projects that can require municipalities to conduct state environmental review include residential, industrial or mixed use developments; development in shoreland areas; developments affecting wetlands or historic resources; sand and gravel mining; campgrounds; golf courses; marinas; communication towers; and sports or entertainment facilities.
Permitting agencies are responsible for reviewing the potential environmental effects of developments that exceed regulatory or other thresholds in specific resource areas. The Pollution Control Agency requires environmental review for wastewater treatment systems, stationary source air emissions, solid or hazardous waste disposal, animal feedlots, materials storage and transfer facilities, and biomass to energy projects. The Department of Natural Resources requires environmental review for water appropriations or diversions, conversion of natural areas, and recreational trails. And the Department of Transportation requires environmental review for triggering highway projects and airports. Power generation and transmission projects also require state environmental review under similar guidance and under the direction of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires Federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of major Federal projects, decisions such as issuing permits (i.e., Section 404 permitting under the Clean Water Act), spending Federal money (Federal transportation funding or other Federal grants), or actions on Federal lands. The responsibility for environmental review often is delegated to the project sponsor as a requirement for eligibility for or use of federal funding.
Types of Environmental Review
The form of environmental review can vary depending upon the type and scale of a proposed development. Both the federal and state processes include an abbreviated overview of a project and the potential effects (Federal EA or State EAW) that result in a determination as to whether or not a more detailed review, in the form of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), is necessary to fully understand, evaluate, and mitigate potential adverse effects.
Regardless of the basis requiring environmental review, both the state and federal environmental review processes require justification of project Purpose and Need, evaluation of project alternatives, assessment of potential impacts to the natural and human environment, identification of measures that can be taken to mitigate adverse effects, and opportunity for public involvement.
Differing project types in different locations and in natural or developed environments can result in a variety of potential effects to a variety of resources. This requires the environmental review process to include a multi-disciplined approach with technical expertise in the natural and human sciences. As an experienced and diversified firm, Bolton & Menk, Inc. offers a broad range of environmental review services and associated specialty services. We have professional staff with specialized training and experience in federal and state environmental review requirements, as well as related specialty services including:
- Public Involvement And Consensus Building
- Cultural Resources
- Natural Resources
- Water Resources
- Wetland Delineation
- Phase I Environmental Site Assessments
- Traffic Analysis
- Landscape Architecture
We can help you navigate the municipal, state, or federal environmental review requirements in a timely and cost-effective manner. Our professional relationships with regulatory agency staff can help focus and streamline the environmental process.
Why Choose Bolton & Menk for Environmental Review Services?
Bolton & Menk is experienced in both MEPA- and NEPA-required environmental review and has provided environmental review services to project sponsors in response to requirements related to federal funding or permitting, grant conditions, or state review thresholds. We regularly assist local governments in their efforts to meet environmental review requirements for developments within their boundaries and provide facilitation support for the associated decision-making and notification procedures.