Ms X and Coillte (27 July 2022)

Whether Coillte was justified, under article 9(2)(a) of the AIE Regulations, in refusing access to information coming within the scope of 19 requests submitted by the appellant.

In  particular, note paras 16 and 17 : 

’16. ….. However, I would note that the exemption

in article 9(2)(a) of the AIE Regulations is not intended to endorse any failure by a public authority to comply with its duties of dissemination of environmental information under article 5 of the AIE Regulations and Article 7 of the AIE Directive. Furthermore, in every case, regard should be had to the purpose of the AIE Regime, as reflected in Recital 1 of the Preamble to the AIE Directive, which provides that “increased public access to environmental information and the dissemination of such information contribute to greater public awareness of environmental decision-making and, eventually, to a better environment.”

17. ….
Coillte stated that, accordingly, while it has a statutory remit it also operates under significant commercial pressures.

I accept that the significant increase in the level of AIE activity over the past year has presented challenges for a number of public authorities, including Coillte. However, the fact remains that the administration of the AIE Regulations is a statutory obligation which should be afforded as much weight as any other statutory obligation or the carrying out of other operational or commercial functions’.

also note

Mr G and DAFM (27 July 2022)

(ODEI have assigned the incorrect reference on this link). 

In particular note para 12. 

12. The manner in which the Department has dealt with this request is unacceptable. The absence of any evidence to show that the Department meaningfully engaged with the request at either original decision stage, or at internal review stage is most disappointing. I acknowledge that renewed searches can sometimes reveal some additional information that may not have been found initially. However, I believe that there must have been significant deficiencies in the searches conducted by the Department in circumstances where no information whatsoever was found during searches at original decision and internal review stage, but a considerable amount of information was then found when my Office enquired about the matter. At that stage the appellant had paid a fee. The Department should review its procedures for searching for environmental information, and take account of the requirement under article 5(1)(b) of the AIE Regulations for it to make all reasonable efforts to maintain environmental information held by or for it in a manner that is readily reproducible and accessible’.

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