The attention of FOI Officers is drawn to the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment)(Amendment) Regulations 2011, which were published just before Christmas, so you may have missed them in the Christmas rush! The principal purpose of the Regulations is described as amending the 2007 AIE Regulations for the purpose of ensuring that Ireland complies with the provisions of Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information.
The primary changes include requiring public authorities to ensure that environmental information compiled by or for them is up-to-date, accurate and comparable, and to maintain registers or lists of the environmental information held by the authority and to designate an information officer for such purposes or alternatively to provide an information point to give clear indications of where such information can be found.
Furthermore, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government is required to ensure that an indicative list of public authorities is available in electronic format.
The application of these requirements should prove interesting in the context of certain bodies which dispute that the AIE regime applies to them – examples of which include NAMA and the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation. Both of these entities have appealed to the High Court in relation to decisions by the Commissioner for Environmental Information that they are public authorities under the AIE Regulations.
A copy of the statutory instrument is available here.