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.
In accordance with article 12(5) of the AIE Regulations, the Commissioner reviewed the Department's decision, and varied the decision in a number of ways. He found that the appellant's request was, in part, manifestly unreasonable with regard to volume and range under article 9(2)(a)20 Oct 2016
In accordance with Article 12(5) and Article 11(5)(a) of the Regulations, the Commissioner reviewed the contention by Wexwind that it is not a public authority for the purposes of the AIE Regulations. Having considered the definition of "public authority" contained in article 3(1) of the AIE Regulations, and the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union, he found that Wexwind is not a public authority for the purposes of the AIE Regulations as it does not constitute government or public administration under paragraph (a) of the definition, it does not perform public administrative functions relating to the environment under paragraph (b) of the definition, nor is it under the control of a public authority for the purposes of paragraph (c) of the definition.
20 Oct 2016
The Commissioner found that, while the AIE request was made to the ESB, the ESB did not process it in accordance with the AIE Regulations. Accordingly, the Commissioner annulled the ESB's deemed refusal. The ESB should now process the request in accordance with the AIE Regulations.
17 Aug 2016
The Commissioner varied the EPA’s decision. He found that refusal was not justified for the reason given, but was justified because the requested information was not held by or for the EPA09 Aug 2016