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 Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government.

Recent Decisions


In accordance with article 12(5) of the AIE Regulations, the Commissioner reviewed the Council's decision on the appellant's request. The Commissioner noted that the Council holds additional information, which was not taken into account in the Council's internal review decision. He varied the Council's internal review decision and required the Council to provide the appellant with access to eight traffic counts. With regard to article 7(3)(a)(ii) of the AIE Regulations, the Commissioner decided that it was reasonable for the Council to provide access to environmental information in a form other than that requested by the appellant.
29 Aug 2017

The Commissioner found that ESB was not justified in refusing to accept any parts of the AIE request. He therefore found that a decision refusing parts 1 to 7 of the AIE request was deemed to have been made and this refusal was not justified. Accordingly, the Commissioner annulled that decision and expressed his expectation that ESB will now accept and process those parts of the request and inform the appellant of the date by which it can expect a decision.
28 Aug 2017

The Commissioner found that the Courts Service holds information of the type requested while acting in a judicial capacity on behalf of the Judiciary. When acting in such a capacity, the Courts Service is not a public authority within the meaning of article 3(1) the AIE Regulations. Accordingly, the Commissioner found that he has no jurisdiction to review the Courts Service's decision on this AIE request.
31 Jul 2017

In accordance with article 12(5) of the Regulations, the Commissioner reviewed the Department's decision on the appellant's request. He found that the Department was not justified in its decision to refuse all of the appellant's request, as the draft protocols contained some environmental information on measures designed to protect the elements of the environment in the form of information on the provisions of the Aarhus Convention and procedures of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee. He found that this information fell within paragraph (c) of the definition of "environmental information". Notwithstanding this, the Commissioner considered articles 12(5)(c) and 7(3)(a), and found that it is not appropriate to require the Department to provide access to information which is publicly available and easily accessible. He found that the remainder of the information did not fall within the definition of environmental information, as it was not information on the Aarhus Convention or the proceedings of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee. He found that the Department's draft protocols are not measures for the purposes of paragraph (c) of the definition of environmental information set out in article 3(1). He also found that Ireland's participation in the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee proceedings is not a measure or activity for the purpose of paragraph (c). The Commissioner annulled the Department's decision in part, insofar as it concerned environmental information on the provisions of the Aarhus Convention and procedures of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee. In all other respects, he affirmed the Department's decision that the draft protocols do not contain environmental information. The Commissioner did not require the Department to make any environmental information available.
06 Jul 2017