Focus on New Laws: Public Comment Period During Environmental Review

August 19, 2019

Government entities are now limited to a single 30-day extension of the public comment period related to the need for an environmental impact statement.

The procedures responsible governmental units (RGUs), including cities, must use when managing an environmental review were changed as part of the 2019 omnibus environment and natural resources law (First Special Session Chapter 4).

Article 3, section 105 amends Minnesota Statutes 2018, section 116D.04, subdivision 2a(d) as it relates to the required 30-day public comment period. The RGU must publish notice of the completion of an environmental assessment worksheet. Once that is done, comments requesting an environmental impact statement (a much more complex assessment) may be submitted to the RGU for the next 30 days.

Under the new provision, the RGU may extend the 30-day comment period for an additional 30 days one time. Further extensions of the comment period may not be made unless approved by the project’s proposer.

Citizens occasionally request longer comment periods when they feel they need more time to adequately understand the details of an environmental assessment worksheet or to arrange for appropriate material concerns to be prepared by experts.

Under previous law, there was no specific language limiting the length of the public comment period except that it had to be at least 30 days. This change imposes a limit on the RGU to extend the initial 30-day period for a single additional 30-day period, unless the project proposer agrees to a longer extension. This change went into effect on July 1.