Access to Information on the Environment (AIE)
European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 to 2011 (S.I. No. 133 of 2007, S.I. No. 662 of 2011 and S.I. No. 615 of 2014) (hereafter referred to as the AIE Regulations), give legal rights to those seeking to access information on the environment from public authorities.
Under these regulations, information relating to the environment held by, or for, a public authority must be made available on request, subject to certain exceptions. The AIE regulations also oblige public authorities to be proactive in disseminating environmental information to the public.
The AIE Regulations provide a definition of environmental information; outline the manner in which requests for information may be submitted to public authorities and the manner in which public authorities are required to deal with requests e.g. timeframes for response. The regulations also provide for a formal appeals procedure in the event that a person is unhappy with a decision on their request.
What is environmental information?
The AIE Regulations define environmental information as:“any information in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form on—
- 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 paragraph (1),
- 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 paragraphs (1) and (2) as well as measures or activities designed to protect those elements,
- reports on the implementation of environmental legislation,
- cost-benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used within the framework of the measures and activities referred to in paragraph (3) and
- the state of human health and safety, including the contamination of the food chain, where relevant, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures inasmuch as they are, or may be, affected by the state of the elements of the environment referred to in paragraph (1) or, through those elements, by any of the matters referred to in paragraphs (2) and (3);”
The AIE Regulations provide for access to both environmental information held by or for a public authority.
Applications for Access to Information on the Environment should be made to:
The Information Officer,
Office of Public Works,
Kilkenny, R95 H4XC.
When making a request for information under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations requesters are required to:
- state that the application is being made under the AIE Regulations and submit it in writing or electronic form (firstname.lastname@example.org),
- provide their contact details,
- state, in terms that are as specific as possible, the environmental information required, and specify the form and manner of access desired.
There is no fee to make a request under AIE Regulations. However, the Regulations do allow a public authority to charge a reasonable fee for the cost of supplying the environmental information.
The OPW has set the following charges:
Search, retrieval and copying of records: €20 per hour
Photocopy: €0.04 per sheet
Requirements for dealing with requests
In general, a public authority is required to respond to an AIE request within one month of receipt of the request. Where, due to the complexity or volume of information required, a public authority is unable to respond within the one month timeframe, they are required to write to the applicant within the month, indicating when a response will issue. This date should not be more than two months from the receipt of the original request.
If the public authority does not have the information requested; it can either transfer the request to another public authority or advise the applicant of where it believes the request should be directed. In either case, it is required to notify the applicant.
What can I do if I am unhappy with a decision on my request?
If you consider that your original request for environmental information was refused wholly or partially, or was otherwise not properly dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the AIE Regulations, you may, not later than one month following the receipt of the decision from the Department, request that the Department carry out an internal review of the decision in part or in whole. The review will be carried out by a more senior member of staff.
No fee will be charged for the internal review process.
A written outcome of the review informing you of the decision, the reason for the decision and advising you of your right of appeal to the Commissioner for Environmental Information, including the time limits and fees associated with such an appeal, will be issued to you within one month of the date of receipt of the request.
Assistance with Requests
If you have any queries AIE Unit can be contacted by email at email@example.com or telephone at 056 7772625 (Edel McArdle) or 056 7772644 (Nora Darcy).