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Environmental Information ( flag flag flag )

Authorities

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Statute–

European Communities Act 1972

EC Council Directive 2003/4

Statutory Instruments–

Energy Information Regulations 2011, as amended (S.I. 2011 No. 1524 2012 Nos. 2897 and 3005, and 2013 No. 1232)

Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (S.I. 2004 No. 3391)

Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004, as amended (S.S.I. 2004 No. 520 and 2013 No. 127)

A: ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION

1 Introduction

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The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (and the equivalent Scottish Regulations) implement, pursuant to the European Communities Act 1972, EC Council Directive 2003/4.

The Regulations provide for the freedom of access to, and the dissemination of, information on the environment held by, inter alia, Government departments, public authorities, other bodies that perform public administration or which are under the control of the above and have public responsibilities, exercise functions, or provide public services in relation to the environment (Reg. 2(1)).

The Regulations apply only to public authorities, but not to the extent that they are acting in a judicial or legislative capacity. They do not apply to either House of Parliament.

Environmental information means any information in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form on (EC Directive, Art. 2)–

(a) the state of the elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites, biological diversity and its components (including genetically modified organisms) and interaction among these elements;

(b) factors, such as substances, energy, noise, radiation, waste, emissions, discharges and other releases into the environment, which affect or are likely to affect the elements in (a) above;

(c) policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements and activities affecting or likely to affect the environment;

(d) reports on the implementation of environmental legislation;

(e) economic analyses used in relation to (c); and

(f) the state of human health and safety inasmuch as they are or may be affected by the environment.

2 Access to environmental information

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The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 require public authorities progressively to make available environmental information to the public by electronic means. They must take reasonable steps to organise the environmental information they hold with a view to its active and systematic dissemination to the public (Reg. 4).

This information must be made available, upon request, as soon as possible and no later than 20 working days after the request is received (Reg. 5) although extensions to this time are possible (Reg. 7). A reasonable charge may be made when information is requested, but no charge may be made for access to public registers or for viewing information at a place which the authority makes available for the purpose (Reg. 8).

The Scottish Regulations provide for similar arrangements.

3 Exceptions to right to information

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An authority may refusal to give information if an exception to disclose exists under the Regulations and the authority decides that the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information (Reg. 12). There is a presumption in favour of disclosure.

The exceptions to disclosure include situations where–

(a) the public authority does not hold the information at the time of the request;

(b) the request is manifestly unreasonable;

(c) the request is too general;

(d) the information is unfinished or incomplete;

(e) internal communications would be disclosed;

(f) disclosure may adversely affect international relations, defence, national security, public safety, the course of justice, intellectual property rights, confidentiality rights or the protection of the environment to which the information relates; and

(g) the interests of the person who supplied the information would be adversely affected, they were not under any legal obligation to supply it, they did not supply it in circumstances such that the authority (or any other authority) is entitled to disclose it, and they have not consented to its disclosure.

There is also an exception to the disclosure of information which includes personal data where the applicant is not the subject of the data (Reg. 13). Such information must not be disclosed if data protection principles would be breached, if the subject of the data would not be entitled to access to it under the Data Protection Act 1998, or if the subject of the data has given notice that disclosure would cause unwarranted and substantial damage or distress and there is no overriding public interest in disclosure. The refusal to disclose information must be explained within 20 working days of receipt of the request (Reg. 14) and a complaint to the Information Commissioner, or an appeal to the First-tier Tribunal/Upper Tribunal (as determined by Tribunal procedure rules), against the refusal may be made. A Government Minister may act to refuse disclosure where national security may be compromised or disclosure would not be in the public interest (Reg. 15).

The Scottish Regulations make similar provision.

4 Exemption under the Freedom of Information Act 2000

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The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 amend s.39 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 so that information that must be disclosed to the public under the Regulations is exempt information for the purposes of that Act i.e., disclosure must be sought under the Regulations, not under the Act.

The Scottish Regulations make a similar amendment to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

B: ENERGY LABELLING

5 Energy information labelling

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The Energy Information Regulations 2011 provide for certain electrical appliances to have standard labelling and product information as to their consumption of energy and other resources. The Regulations implement Council Directive 2010/30 and replace previous regulations which set out separate requirements for dishwashers, washing machines, fridges, tumble driers, etc.

The Regulations apply to energy-related products which have a significant direct or indirect impact on the consumption of energy and, where relevant, on other essential resources during use. They do not apply to second-hand products; any means of transport for persons or goods; or the rating plate or its equivalent affixed for safety purposes to products (Reg. 3).

When placing on the market or putting into service products covered by the regulations, suppliers must (Reg. 7)–

(a) supply a label and a fiche which comply with the Regulations and the EC Directive; and

(b) produce technical documentation which is sufficient to enable the accuracy of the information contained in the label and the fiche to be assessed. The documentation must remain available for inspection for a at least 5 years after the date the product was last manufactured.

Dealers must make the fiche available in the product brochure or any literature which accompanies the product when sold to end-users, and when a product is displayed they must attach the label in a clearly visible specified position (Reg. 8).

Similar provisions apply to any person who offers products for sale, hire or hire-purchase, or displays to end-users directly or indirectly by any means of distance selling, including the internet (Reg. 9).

A person must not display any label, mark, symbol or inscription which does not comply with the above requirements if the display is likely to mislead or confuse end-users with respect to the consumption of energy or, where relevant, other essential resources during use (Reg. 10).

Contravention of these provisions is an offence for which a person will be liable on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum; or on conviction on indictment, to an unlimited fine (Reg. 11). Alternatively, a civil sanction may be imposed. These may include a compliance notice, a stop notice, an enforcement undertaking or a requirement to pay a variable monetary penalty or a non-compliance penalty. Appeals against civil sanctions may be made to the First-tier Tribunal.