Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental and Energy Policy (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Social Sciences

Advisor 1

Nancy Langston

Committee Member 1

Adam Wellstead

Committee Member 2

Carol MacLennan


In policymaking, evidence-based policymaking is an essential method for influencing policies and decisions by telling decision-makers “what works” (Head, 2008). Western sciences typically make up most of the evidence decision-makers use, but because people are boundedly rational in understanding and incorporating it—politics, values, and beliefs impact thought processes— scholars and policymakers also include other types of knowledge to make decisions. One way for decision-makers to incorporate other types of knowledge into policies is through public comments. Although public comments may provide different types of knowledge to improve policy decisions, decision-makers face challenges with valuing different types of knowledge as evidence. This study asks: how do decision-making agencies analyze and value knowledge from public comments? Examining the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) of the proposed PolyMet mine in Minnesota, I look at how the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources valued different types of knowledge from public comments. Using a qualitative coding and analysis methods, I analyze the public comments of the FEIS, using the theories from evidence-based policymaking to examine potential bias, legal interpretations, and the value of knowledge from the DNR. I argue that the DNR, following state legal requirements, tended to value expert knowledge as more important in their decision-making process. By broadening their scope of knowledge use, the DNR may increase transparency, reduce bias, and increase public acceptance of their decisions.