The European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 (S.I. 133 of 2007), give legal rights to those seeking access to information on the environment from public authorities. These Regulations came into effect on 1 May 2007, repealing the previous legislative instrument, the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 1998.
Subject to certain exceptions, information relating to the environment held by, or for, a public authority must be made available on request to any person. The Regulations provide a definition of environmental information and outline the manner in which requests for information may be submitted to public authorities. The Regulations also provide for a formal appeals procedure in the event that a person is unhappy with a decision on their request.
The definition of “environmental information” in the Directive and in the Regulations is broad and wide-ranging. The definition covers information “in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form”. It identifies six separate categories of information dealing with:
the state of the elements of the environment (e.g. air, water, soil, land, landscape,
factors affecting, or likely to affect, the elements of the environment (e.g. energy,
noise, radiation, waste, other releases into the environment);
measures designed to protect the elements of the environment (e.g. policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements);
reports on the implementation of environmental legislation;
analyses and assumptions used within the framework of measures designed to protect the environment; and
the state of human health and safety, the food chain, cultural sites and built structures inasmuch as they may be affected by the elements of the environment.
Yes. Any person or organisation can request access to environmental information held by University College Cork. The applicant is not required to prove an interest; or to say why he/she wants the information.
The Access to Information on the Environment Regulations operates in parallel with the Freedom of Information Act 1997 and 2003. While the two legislative codes are broadly similar (with respect to environmental information), the AIE Regulations and the FOI Acts differ in that a wider range of public authorities are covered by the AIE Regulations than by the FOI legislation. There are also material differences in the grounds under which access to information can be refused under the two legislative codes.
There is no initial fee required when lodging a request for information under AIE.
The University may however charge a reasonable fee when it makes available environmental information in accordance with the Regulations. Depending on the volume of information to be released, the University may charge for the time spent retrieving records which could, for example, include the cost of staff or other costs connected with searching, retrieving (€20.95 per hour), compiling or copying of the information (4 cent per sheet).
Applications for Access to Information on the Environment should be made to:
Information Compliance Officer
Office of Corporate & Legal Affairs
University College Cork
Western Road, Cork.
Tel: +353 (0)21 4903949
Fax: +353 (0)21 4903120
When making a request for information under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations you are required to:
state that the application is being made under the AIE Regulations and submit it in writing (to the address above) or electronic form (email: email@example.com);
provide your contact details;
state, in terms that are as specific as possible, the environmental information required, and specify the form and manner of access desired (e.g. Do you wish to be given photocopies? Do you wish to view the original documents? etc.).
Normally you will be notified of the decision on your request within 1 month of its receipt.
Under the AIE Regulations we may refuse to give you access to environmental information on certain grounds:
international relations, national defence or public security;
the course of justice (including criminal inquiries and disciplinary inquiries);
commercial or industrial confidentiality;
intellectual property rights;
material in the course of completion;
internal communications of public authorities;
the request is considered to be unreasonable, due to the volume or range of information sought;
the request is too general
the material is not yet completed.
We must refuse to give you access to environmental information on other grounds listed below (subject to the provisions of Article 10):
information supplied by a third party on a voluntary basis;
protection of the environment to which information relates;
confidentiality of the proceedings of public authorities.
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 of the University, request the University to carry out an internal review the decision in part or in whole.
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.
A written appeal should be submitted to the Commissioner for Environmental Information at the:
Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information
18 Lower Leeson Street,
Telephone: +353 (0)1 6395689
Further contact details and information on the Commissioner's Office are contained on the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information website at www.ocei.gov.ie
The AIE Regulations provide that a fee of €150 must be charged for an appeal to the Commissioner for Environmental Information. However, provision is also made for a reduced appeal fee of €50 for medical card holders and their dependents and also for people, not party to the original request for access to information, who are appealing a decision to release information which they believe will affect them.
Further information on the AIE Regulations is set out in the Official Guidelines on the Regulations which accompany the Regulations 2008. These guidelines are intended to assist and offer guidance to public authorities on the implementation of the AIE Regulations and to applicants who wish to access environmental information.