Other’s opinion: Government —Bipartisan energy permit reform good for business, environment

Published 4:56 pm Friday, May 10, 2024

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Mankato Free Press. May 3, 2024.

Permit reform has been on the list of many legislators of both parties for years, but it’s good news to see it actually happening in at least one area.

Sen. Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato, an assistant Senate majority leader, has ushered through a bill that will help streamline a cumbersome permit process for clean energy and power transmission projects with an eye toward helping the state reach its goal of carbon free energy by 2040. The bill would reduce some steps in the permitting process without reducing public input or environmental safety, according to Frentz.

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The plan would reduce the requirement for some projects to have more in-depth, time-consuming studies and require only standard studies done by the project developer that would still go through a review process. Smaller projects would have standard reviews while larger projects would have major reviews.

The bill would also shift some permitting responsibilities from the Department of Commerce to the Public Utilities Commission, thereby reducing cross-agency delays and tangles. It would streamline a system that now involves the PUC, the Department of Commerce and an administrative law judge.

It will also broaden an existing exemption for projects to produce a certificate of need to the PUC, giving a nod to the understanding clean energy projects are needed to meet carbon emission goals.

Frentz says it will reduce total permitting time by 20%. Some environment lawyers say it will reduce time by half in some cases and cut three to six months off standard reviews and sixth months off major reviews.

Frentz has been willing to modify the Senate bill based on assessments from a wide range of stakeholders from environment groups to business. The Center for Environmental Advocacy, one of the most influential environmental groups, such companies as REI and Google, and trade unions have supported the plan.

The full Senate has passed the plan while the House is working out the details of its version. We urge the Legislature to approve this well thought out bipartisan proposal that will speed up green energy projects and help meet the Minnesota goal of carbon free energy by 2040.