Access to Information on the Environment
The European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 to 2014 (the “Regulations”), give legal rights to those seeking to access information on the environment from public authorities.
What can I ask for?
Under the Regulations, information relating to the environment held by, or for, HBFI must be made available on request, subject to certain exceptions. A definition of environmental information is provided in the Regulations and determines what is to be made available.
What is the definition of Environmental Information?
Environmental information can be held in any material form (including written, visual, aural or electronic) and is defined as follows:
- the state of the elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites including wetlands, coastal and marine areas, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms and the interaction among these elements;
- factors, such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste, including radioactive waste, emissions, discharges and other releases into the environment, affecting or likely to affect the elements of the environment;
- measures (including administrative measures), such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements, and activities affecting or likely to affect the elements and factors referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) as well as measures or activities designed to protect those elements;
- reports on the implementation of environmental legislation;
- cost-benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used within the framework of the measures and activities referred to in paragraph (c), and
- the state of human health and safety, including the contamination of the food chain, where relevant, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures inasmuch as they are, or may be, affected by the state of the elements of the environment referred to in paragraph (a) or, through those elements, by any of the matters referred to in paragraphs (b) and (c).
How do I make an AIE request?
When making a request for information under the 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.
You can send a request in writing (by post, hand delivery or email) to:
Access to Information on the Environment Unit
Home Building Finance Ireland DAC
North Wall Quay
Phone: 01 238 5050
Decision on a Request
A decision on your request must generally be made within one month of receipt of the request to grant, part grant or refuse the information requested.
The Regulations set out mandatory and discretionary grounds for refusal of information. In either case we will specify in writing the reasons for refusal.
Where the information is held by a public authority other than HBFI we will either refer your request directly to the appropriate public authority or advise you of the appropriate public authority to whom your request should be directed. In either case, we will notify you of any such developments.
If I’m denied access to information, can I appeal against the decision?
Under Article 11 of the 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. There is no charge for requesting an internal review.
An internal review involves a complete reconsideration of the matter by another member of staff unconnected with the original decision whose rank is the same as or higher than the hat of the original decision maker. The internal reviewer 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.
There is no initial fee for making an application under the Regulations. However, a reasonable fee may apply for supplying the information requested. This may include the costs of compiling, copying, printing or posting of information.
A charge will not apply for access to registers or lists of environmental information or for the examination of such information in situ.
There is no charge for applying for an internal review.
As of 19th December 2014, the amended cost of taking an appeal to the Commissioner for Environmental Information is €50 or €15 if you are the holder, or dependent of a holder of a medical card, or a third party appealing the decision to release certain information.