Public Access Rights to Environmental Information - Quick guide to Environmental Information Regulations
The Environmental Information Regulations (No. 119(I)/2004), are based on Directive 2003/4/EEC. They give the public access rights to environmental information held by a public authority in response to requests. The Regulations came into force on 30 April 2004.
Duty to make Environmental Information available on request:
Environmental information should be made available on request as soon as possible and in any case no later than one month after the date of receipt of the request for information.
Form and format of information
Where an applicant requests environmental information of a specific form or type, a Public Authority shall comply with that request unless:
- The above period may be extended to two months if the volume and complexity of the information requested makes it impracticable for the authority to comply with the request within one month.
Relevant Environmental Information
Any environmental information in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form on:
- the information is already publicly available and easily accessible to the applicant in another form or type.; or
- it is reasonable for the public authority to make the information available in another form or type.
The types of information which must be made available include:
- The state of the elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites, including wetlands, coastal and marine areas, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms, and the interaction among these elements;
- Factors, such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste, including radioactive waste, emissions, discharges and other releases into the environment, affecting or likely to affect the elements of the environment referred to in (a);
- Measures (including administrative measures), such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements, and activities affecting or likely to affect the elements and factors referred to in (a) and (b) as well as measures or activities designed to protect those elements;
- Reports on the implementation of environmental legislation;
- e. Cost-benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used within the framework of the measures and activities referred to in (c); and
- The state of human health and safety, including the contamination of the food chain, where relevant, conditions of human life, cultural sites and building structures in as much as they are or may be affected by the state of the elements of the environment referred to in (a) or, through those elements, by any of the matters referred to in (b) and (c).
Exemptions from duty to make environmental information available
A Public Authority may refuse a request to make environmental information available if:
- Texts of international treaties, conventions or agreements, and texts of Community, national, regional or local legislation, on the environment or relating to it;
- Policies, plans and programmes relating to the environment;
- Progress reports on the implementation of the items referred to in sub paragraphs (a) and (b) when prepared or held by a public authority in electronic form;
- Reports on the state of the environment;
- Data or summaries of data derived from the monitoring of activities that affect or are likely to affect the environment;
- Authorizations with a significant impact on the environment and environmental agreements or a reference to the place where such information can be requested or found;
- Environmental impact studies and risk assessments concerning the environment.
Refusal of Request
A Public Authority may refuse to make environmental information available to the extent that its disclosure could prejudice substantially:
- The requested information is not kept by it or by another entity on its behalf;
- the request for information is manifestly unreasonable;
- the request for information is formulated in a too vague manner;
- the request relates to material which is still incomplete, to unfinished documents or to incomplete data; or
- the request relates to internal communications.
The public Authority cannot reject an application requesting disclosure of emissions to the environment.
Responsible persons for handling requests for Environmental Information
- the confidentiality of the proceedings of the Public Authority where such confidentiality is provided for by law;
- the international relations of the Republic, national security or public safety;
- the course of justice, the ability of a person to receive a fair trial or the ability of any public authority to conduct an inquiry of a criminal or disciplinary nature;
- the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information where such confidentiality is provided for in national or Community law to protect a legitimate economic interest;
- intellectual property rights;
- f. the confidentiality of the personal data or records relating to a physical person when that person has not consented to their disclosure;
- the interests of any person who has voluntarily provided the information when that person has consented to its disclosure; or
- the protection of the environment to which the information relates such as the location of rare species.