Ensuring Access to Environmental Information

The role of the Commissioner for Environmental Information is to decide on appeals by members of the public who are not satisfied with the outcome of their requests to public authorities for environmental information.

Everyone has the right to request certain environmental information from public authorities under the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 to 2014 (the AIE Regulations). These Regulations give effect in Ireland to Directive 2003/4/EC, which was adopted to give effect to the Access to Information pillar of the Aarhus Convention.

The Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information (OCEI) was established by the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations 2007. The role of the Commissioner is to decide on appeals by members of the public who are not satisfied with the outcome of their requests to public authorities for environmental information.

Specifically, the Regulations provide that the Commissioner can review decisions of public authorities, and in accordance with law, the Commissioner can make binding decisions on access to environmental information.

The Regulations provide for a fee of €50 (reduced to €15 for medical card holders) to be paid by those wishing to appeal. Before the OCEI can accept an appeal, the appellant must show that he or she has availed of the right to internal review of the public authority's decision.
A consolidated version of the AIE Regulations and Directive 2003/4/EC, along with a guidance note on the Access to Information on the Environment system, are available on the website of the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government.

Recent Decisions


In accordance with article 12(5) and article 11(5)(a) of the AIE Regulations, the Commissioner reviewed the contention by Mr Michael Neary, a property arbitrator appointed by the Reference Committee under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act 1919, that he is not a public authority for the purposes of the AIE Regulations. The Commissioner found that the property arbitrator falls within paragraphs (a) and (b) of the definition of "public authority" set out in paragraph 3(1) of the AIE Regulations, and is therefore a "public authority" for the purposes of the AIE Regulations. The Commissioner found that the property arbitrator does not fall within paragraph (c) of the definition. The Commissioner also considered whether the property arbitrator is excluded from the definition of "public authority" by virtue of article 3(2) of the AIE Regulations, as a person acting in a judicial capacity. The Commissioner found that article 3(2) does not apply to the Office of property arbitrator. The Commissioner stated that the property arbitrator should process the appellant's request in line with the AIE Regulations.
28 Nov 2016

Under article 12(5) of the AIE Regulations, the Commissioner reviewed the decision of the Department. He affirmed the Department's decision to refuse the appellant's request for access to environmental information, but varied the reasons for refusal. He found that the Department was not justified in its decision that the information requested did not fall within the definition of "environmental information" set out in article 3(1). He found that the appellant's request does not relate to emissions into the environment for the purposes of article 10(1). The Commissioner found that the Department was partly justified in refusing to provide access to information on identifiable individuals recorded as owners or operators of peat extraction sites, on the basis that the exception under article 8(a)(i) applied to this information. He found that the Department was not justified in its decision that article 8(a)(i) applied to other information contained in the Peatlands Survey, to the extent that such information does not refer to identifiable individuals. He found that the Department was not justified in its decision that the exception under article 8(a)(ii) applied to the information requested. The Commissioner found that the exceptions under article 8(a)(iv) and 9(2)(d) do not apply in the present case. He found that article 9(1)(b) applies to the information requested, as disclosure of the information requested would adversely affect the course of justice. He found that the public interest in disclosure of the requested information did not outweigh the interests served by refusal under articles 8(a)(i) and 9(1)(b).
31 Jan 2017

The Commissioner found that the Department was not justified in refusing access for the reasons given. He annulled the Department’s decision and required the Department to provide the appellant with access to certain information.
16 Jan 2017

The Commissioner noted that the Department had provided the appellants with access to a large number of records, and he found that it was justified in refusing access to some of the withheld information. The Commissioner found that the Department was not justified in refusing access to certain information relating to correspondence between the Department and the European Commission and to certain records relating to tendering for works. Accordingly, he varied the Department’s decision and required it to make that information available to the appellants.
20 Dec 2016