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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.

Environmental Review Program Effectiveness Matrix

Does an improvement directly or fully increase a criterion as defined below? Award 2 points.

Does an improvement indirectly or partially increase a criterion as defined below? Award 1 point.

Does an improvement maintain or not address a criterion? Award 0 points.

Criteria for information (Objective A)
Scientific integrityEnvironmental protectionMeasurability
means considering, encouraging, or making available the most up-to- date reputable, and complete science-based information for analysis of environmental and human health impacts or mitigationmeans using information in government decisions to safeguard the environment and people in Minnesotameans identifying quantifiable data to understand project and/or environmental review program impacts to human health and the environment 
Criteria for engagement (Objective B)
means inclusion of voices that have historically been marginalized, excluded, or disproportionally impacted by pollution and the ability for those voices to influence the conversation, etc. means clear communication and procedures or understandable information to interact with environmental review; ease or efficiency to thoroughly and accurately complete environmental reviewsmeans access to decision-makers and processes so that the public can provide meaningful input into decision making and receive explanations and updates for why certain decisions are made
Criteria for process (Objective D and E)
ConsistencyQuality assuranceAccountability
means uniformity of environmental review processes thereby promoting dependability and reliability in environmental review; eliminates ambiguities; promotes comparabilitymeans EQB's ability to verify accuracy and completeness of information used in the environmental review programmeans the project proposer's, RGU's, and Board's ability to better demonstrate meeting the program's obligation to the public and to the environment through reporting, data sharing, transparently explaining decisions, taking responsibility for actions, and being able to explain, justify, and take consequences for them

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