Environmental Information Regulations
Alongside the Freedom of Information Act, on 1st January 2005 the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs) came into force, allowing people to request environmental information from public authorities, including universities.
What information is covered by the Environmental Information Regulations?
- Information on the state of the environment and factors effecting the environment, for example, instances of flooding, habitat loss, species extinction, greenhouse gases, radioactive waste, noise, building developments, etc.
- Information on measures such as policies, legislation (including reports on the implementation of environmental legislation), environmental agreements, etc. and also economic analysis/cost benefit of such measures.
- Information on the state of human health and safety, the food chain, cultural/built structures and the conditions of human life, where they are effected by environmental factors such as acid rain, air pollution, etc.
How do I request information?
Unlike a Freedom of Information request, an EIR request does not need to be made in writing. It could be made over the telephone or even face to face.
You don’t need to mention these Regulations for the rules relating to them to apply and you can state your preference as to the format in which you would like the information to be provided to you.
See our page on Getting Information from the University for further details.
Are there exceptions to the duty to disclose environmental information?
Inevitably, there is information for which there would be adverse consequences should it be released, for example the nesting location of a rare bird species. To prevent such consequences, the Regulations contain a number of exceptions which would allow the University to withhold such information:
- The information is not held by the University
- The request is manifestly unreasonable
- The request is too general (and the University would seek further clarification from the requestor)
- The request is for unfinished documents or data (the University would clarify when the information would be available)
- The request is for internal communication
Public interest test
The Regulations also require the University to consider whether or not it is in the public interest to release information. If it is in the public interest to release the information then the University will do so.
If a decision is made that the public interest in withholding the information is greater than the public interest in disclosing the information, consideration will also be given to the effect on the following interests:
- Confidentiality of proceedings
- International relations / public security / defence
- The course of justice and right to fair trial
- Commercial confidentiality
- Intellectual property rights
- Personal / voluntary data
- Environmental protection
The University must be sure that release of information in this case would have an adverse effect on one of the above interests. The University must also make it clear how it believe the release of the information would adversely affect that interest.