The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) give the public the right to access environmental information held by public authorities. The request can be made by letter, email, telephone or in person.
The regulations apply to most public authorities, but they can also apply to any organisation or person carrying out a public administration function, and any organisation or person under the control of a public authority who has environmental responsibilities.
This can include some private companies or public private partnerships, for example companies involved in energy, water, waste and transport.
Environmental information is divided into six main areas:
- The state of the elements of the environment - such as air, water, soil, land, fauna (including human beings)
- Emissions and discharges, noise, energy, radiation, waste and other such substances
- Measures and activities such as policies, plans, and agreements affecting or likely to affect the state of the elements of the environment
- Reports, cost-benefit and economic analyses
- The state of human health and safety, contamination of the food chain
- Cultural sites and built structures (to the extent they may be affected by the state of the elements of the environment).
If a public authority receives a request for information on any of the areas mentioned above, they are legally obliged to provide it, usually within 20 working days. There are a number of exceptions to this rule - for example, if the information is likely to prejudice national security - and if this is the case, the public authority must explain why the exception applies.
How do the regulations work with other laws concerning access to information?
As well as the Environmental Information Regulations, there are regulations for the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000:
- Environmental information is accessed under the Environmental Information Regulations
- Personal information about the applicant falls under the Data Protection Act 1998
- All other information falls under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Last updated: Mon 15 December, 2014 @ 11:03