Minnesota AG joins lawsuit challenging rule curtailing environmental review

Minnesota is joining a coalition of 22 states, territories and local governments in a lawsuit that challenges a rule that scales back environmental review of federal actions under the National Environmental Policy Act, Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Saturday.

According to a news release from Ellison’s office, the lawsuit alleges that the new final rule "abandons informed decision making" and limits the public’s ability to weigh in on actions that are likely to affect the environment, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and NEPA.

The Trump administration’s Council on Environmental Quality published the new final rule on July 16, and it is set to go into effect on Sept. 14.

“My job is to protect Minnesotans, especially the most vulnerable, when the federal government won’t,” Ellison said in a statement. “Once again, the Trump Administration is deliberately making it harder for Minnesotans to live with dignity and respect, and to make their voices heard on environmental decisions that concern their health and wellbeing. Once again, they’re taking aim at vulnerable communities who have suffered the most from environmental injustice. And we allege that once again, they’ve broken the law in doing so.

NEPA was enacted in 1969 and requires federal agencies to consider environmental impacts, alternatives and mitigation measures whenever taking actions "significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”

Minnesotans have participated in NEPA processes for major infrastructure projects, such as PolyMet’s NorthMet mine and Enbridge Energy’s proposed Line 3 replacement pipeline, Ellison said.