Minnesota adopts requirements to measure greenhouse gas emissions for proposed projects

Minnesota Public Radio reports that Minnesota’s environmental review process will now require developers of new highways, industrial plants, livestock feedlots, and significant housing developments to calculate their project’s greenhouse gas emissions and consider how to reduce them.

While lawyers at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) cheered this decision, American Experiment has warned that these new regulations will increase costs on Minnesota job creators and local governments for zero measurable environmental benefits.

A study by Barr Engineering found that these new regulations would add more than $13,000 to complete an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) and delay projects. While $13,000 is a lot of money, the regulations can make projects even more expensive by introducing more regulatory uncertainty and delaying project timelines.

The changes also mean the permitting process will likely become more politicized than it is today, especially as it pertains to replacing future oil pipelines and the proposed copper-nickel mines in Northern Minnesota. This is because the mandated greenhouse gas accounting will encourage frivolous lawsuits regarding carbon dioxide emissions from these projects from special interest groups, like MCEA, who want to stop the projects entirely.

While these rules currently only require companies to fill out an EAW or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) estimating their greenhouse gas emissions, former MPCA Commissioner Laura Bishop implied that the data collected by these new regulations could one day be used to approve or deny new projects if new laws or regulations are enacted. 

This is exactly what MCEA wants, according to MPR. Amelia Vohs, a regulatory attorney for MCEA, said she hopes “eventually, there could be state requirements for projects to reduce their greenhouse gases, “so we’re going beyond just counting what your emissions are to actually making sure that projects are reducing them before we permit them in the state.”

These new regulations are all pain and no gain because completely eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from Minnesota (achieving net zero) would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 161 million tons, which would yield a future temperature reduction of 0.003 degrees C by 2100, an amount far too small to measure with the most sophisticated scientific equipment.

As a result, these regulations will have a far greater impact on Minnesota’s business climate than on future global temperatures.