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 and S.I 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 is the difference between AIE and Freedom to Information (FOI)?
The Access to Information on the Environment Regulations operate in parallel with the Freedom of Information Act 2014. While the two legislative codes are broadly similar (with respect to environmental information), the AIE Regulations and the FOI Acts differ in that a wider range of public authorities are covered by the AIE Regulations than by the FOI legislation. There are also material differences in the grounds under which access to information can be refused under the two legislative codes.
Is there a charge for getting information under the AIE Regulations?
There is no initial fee required when lodging a request for information under AIE. A Public Authority may however, charge a reasonable fee when it makes available environmental information in accordance with the Regulations. Depending on the volume of information to be released, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine may charge for the time spent retrieving records which could, for example, include the cost of staff or other costs connected with searching, retrieving (€20 per hour), compiling or copying of the information (4 cent per sheet).