Mr. Dick Roche, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has signed the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 (the AIE Regulations).
The AIE Regulations come into effect on 1 May 2007 and repeal the European Communities Act 1972 (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 1998.
The Regulations (S.I. 133 of 2007) give effect to EU Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information. This Directive repealed the previous EU Directive that had been transposed by the 1998 AIE Regulations.
The Minister emphasised that the right to access information - including environmental information - through the Freedom of Information Acts, will not be affected and that the FoI and AIE systems will continue to operate in parallel.
The new Regulations provide a more comprehensive definition of environmental information, set out the manner in which information is to be sought from - and provided by - public authorities and introduce a right of appeal against decisions of public bodies. Appeals will be dealt with by the newly-established Commissioner for Environmental Information - and the FoI Information Commissioner will carry out this role.
The Minister has also published statutory guidelines to assist public authorities and persons who wish to access information in understanding how the new Regulations will operate.