This chapter covers what environmental information is and how to respond to requests for environmentally related information. This is because environmental information is covered by separate regulations to the Freedom of Information (FoI) Acts. If you are the one processing FoI requests, you need to know about the EIR, as you will be processing these requests as well as a matter of course.
The EIR are a lot like the Freedom of Information Acts (FoIAs), until they are not. The same process for managing FoI requests that is set out in Chapter 2 can be used to manage EIR requests. Unlike data protection, they are a straightforward request for information. There is a UK and a Scottish set of regulations, although these are very similar. Any differences between the two Regulations will be noted as necessary. Being a set of Regulations rather than an Act, the termin - ology is Regulation rather than section when referring to the separate parts of the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), that is Regulation 1(1) rather than section 1(1).
As is expected from the name, the EIR focus on environmental information, as compared to FoI, which covers information more generally. Which leads to the first question when it comes to using the EIR: what is environmental information? The next section takes you through the definitions in the Regulations and how they can be used to identify environmental information.
Both Regulations take their definitions of environmental information directly from Directive 2003/4/EC, Public Access to Environmental Information, (referred to as ‘the Directive’ in this chapter) which was in turn drafted to meet the requirements of the Aarhus Convention. The purpose of the Directive and the Regulations is to allow EU citizens access to environmental information in order to be able to participate in decision making relating to the environment.
In Regulation 2(1) for both the UK and Scottish Regulations, environmental information is defined in the following way:
‘environmental information’ has the same meaning as in Article 2(1) of the Directive, namely any information in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form on—
(a) the state of the elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites including wetlands, coastal and marine areas, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms, and the interaction among these elements;