Access to Information on the Environment


Introduction

This section of the website provides general information on the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 -2014.  It includes background information on the legislation, useful publications and links to other relevant bodies.   It also includes a link to the AIE section of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, which contains information on how to make an AIE request for information held by, or for this Department.

Access to Information on the Environment (AIE)

European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 to 2014 (S.I. No. 133 of 2007, S.I. No. 662 of 2011 & 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 public bodies are subject to AIE?

The AIE Regulations broadly define “public authorities” to include all bodies that have a role in public administration and that possess environmental information.   It is important to note that this definition is broader in scope than the definition of “public body” in the FoI Acts.

Under the 2011 Regulations, the Minister is required to publish an indicataive list of public authorities that are subject to the AIE Regulations.   These are:-

  • Government Departments e.g. Department of Environment, Community and Local Government
  • Local authorities e.g. Laois County Council
  • Non-commercial state agencies e.g. the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Commercial state agencies e.g. EirGrid
  • Regulatory bodies e.g. the Commission for Energy Regulation

 How to make an AIE application

When making a request for information under the AIE Regulations, you are required to:

  • state that the application is being made under the AIE Regulations and submit it in writing or electronic form;
  • provide your contact details;
  • state, in terms that are as specific as possible, the environmental information required, and
  • if you require the information in a specific format or manner of access, you should specify this in your request.

It is not necessary to state an interest in the request.

Applications to Laois County Council

Requests to Laois County Council are required to be submitted in writing to the Access to Information on the Environment Officer, Laois County Council, Áras an Chontae, JFL Avenue, Portlaoise, Co Laois or electronically to aie@laoiscoco.ie.

Fees

There is no initial fee required when lodging a request for information under AIE. In line with the regulations, however, a public authority may charge a reasonable fee for supplying environmental information.

This fee will be calculated upon receipt of a request and is dependent on the volume of work involved in compiling information where it has not been previously available in an accessible format. This fee has been set as €20.00 per hour.

If requesters require hard copies there may be a fee of .4c per sheet depending on the volume of information contained in the request and this will be advised in the final decision letter.

Public Authorities may not charge for access to registers or lists of environmental information or for the examination of such information in situ.

The Council has committed to ensuring that the charging of this fee will not, as a general rule, exceed the actual costs of producing the material in question. Where the estimated cost of supplying information on the environment is likely to exceed €100, a deposit of at least 20% of the total amount may be required. In such cases, the requester will be advised in writing of the position and will be provided with an opportunity to review or amend the request. Fees in respect of supplying information may be waived where the cost is estimated at less than €10.00.

Electronic access can be provided to requesters free of charge or by CD-ROM (€10) containing copy documents again depending on volume.

AIE Regulations provide that a fee of €50 must be charged for an appeal to the Commissioner for Environmental Information. Provision is made for a reduced appeal fee of €15 for medical card holders and their dependents and also for people who are not party to the original request but who are appealing the decision to release information as they believe it affects them.

The Commissioner for Environmental Information may waive the €50 appeal fee in cases where the public authority has not responded to the request for environmental information within the specified time period.

Requirements for dealing with requests

In general, Laois County Council 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, we are unable to respond within the one month timeframe, we are required to write to the applicant within one month, indicating when a response will issue.    This date should not be more than two months from the receipt of the original request.

If we do not have the information requested, we can either transfer the request to another public authority or advise you of where the request should be directed.   In either case, we are required to notify you.

Grounds for refusing information

There are a number of grounds on which a public authority can refuse information; these include when a body is acting in a legislative or judicial capacity (Article 3(2)) and both mandatory (Article 8) and discretionary (Article 9) grounds for refusing information.   When making a decision on whether to release information, a public body is required to consider the provisions in Article 10.

Appealing a Decision

Under Article 11 of the AIE Regulations you have a right to seek an internal review of the initial decision.   You may also request an internal review if you have not received a response within the appropriate timeframe.   An internal review must be requested within one month of receipt of the original decision (the public authority may extend this timeframe but is not required to do so).   There is no charge for requesting an internal review.

An internal review involves a complete reconsideration of the matter by a member of the staff of the public authority, who may affirm, vary or annul the original decision made.

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 for the review.

If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the internal review, you can appeal to the Commissioner for Environmental Information (CEI).  You must appeal within one month of receiving the decision on the internal review from the public authority.   However, the Commissioner may extend this time limit in individual cases