Continuous Improvement for Minnesota’s Environmental Review Program

Minnesota’s Environmental Review Program (ER Program) was created in 1973 to provide usable information to communities, decision makers, and project proposers for a wide variety of projects. Historically, program updates occurred through legislative direction, mandatory category evaluation, and other initiatives usually in response to a specific issue. We recognize the need for a modern, comprehensive approach to environmental review that adapts to current and future environmental challenges and technical advances in tools, resources, and scientific knowledge.

The goal of this continuous improvement process is to identify and prioritize program changes in a strategic, transparent, and efficient manner.  EQB aims to modernize environmental review in a way that upholds the original intent of Minnesota Statute 116D: to protect the environment and provide usable information to the public and decisionmakers. 

In June of 2023 the Board voted to approve the following process steps:

The board resolves to adopt and use the following continuous improvement procedural steps at least once a biennium for the environmental review program: 

  1. EQB staff solicit ideas for program improvements. 
  2. EQB staff review the scope of the improvements.
  3. EQB staff evaluate and score improvements using a program effectiveness prioritization matrix.   
  4. EQB staff plan for implementation of improvements. 
  5. ERIS completes review of implementation planning.  
  6. Board completes review and directs staff to implement selected projects.   

These steps will be re-evaluated at least every four years, so the board may make any necessary adjustments. 

The prioritization matrix mentioned in step 3 was designed based on the environmental review rules, past report recommendations, and public feedback. The matrix is what staff use to score improvement ideas. The scoring is considered by the board in determining the workplan priorities, but it is not the only factor used in decision-making. More information on the matrix and criteria development can be found in the final report.

 Want to learn more?

Third party contractors helped analyze research and facilitate conversations to build this new process. Details on the development (including a full list of improvements and how they were considered) is available in a final report.The background research is summarized in a memo.

The board packet of June 2023 also shows information pertinent to the methodology of the continuous improvement process, beginning on packet page 13. 

What's next?

EQB staff have scored this year's improvements in the matrix and are now planning for project implementation of some top ranking ideas including an evaluation of existing decision criteria and new guidance/best management practices.  


Any questions can be emailed to