Submitted by Penelope Gane on Tuesday 21st February 2023
Published on Thursday 23rd February 2023
Current status: Closed
Closed: Wednesday 23rd August 2023
Protect the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004
In 2015, Fish Legal won a landmark case that secured the public’s right to obtain environmental information from privatised water companies under the EIR 2004. If the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill is enacted these regulations will be repealed, unless the Government preserves them.
If the regulations are repealed, the public's right to obtain environmental information directly from privatised water companies disappears too. Privatised water companies could go back to polluting and abstracting water from our rivers without public scrutiny. We want the Government to guarantee the public’s right to environmental information held by these companies, by retaining the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
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The Government responded to this petition on Monday 24th April 2023
Defra is reviewing retained EU law. Our default is to retain regulation as we undertake whether to retain, repeal or reform, rather than automatically allow regulation to fall with the sunset clause.
Outside of the EU, this government has gone further and faster to restore our rivers with additional duties, targets and powers introduced through the Environment Act 2021. We clearly will not be weakening any regulations to protect our waters.
Defra wants to ensure that environmental law is fit for purpose for the UK’s unique environment and able to drive improved environmental outcomes. Defra is already identifying its retained EU law (REUL) and placing a record on the Government’s REUL dashboard, which can be accessed here: (https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/governmentreporting/viz/UKGovernment-RetainedEULawDashboard/Guidance). This exercise arises out of the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. Once the Bill receives Royal Assent, the ensuing Act will require Government departments to consider retaining, reforming or repealing their REUL. That review will include consideration of the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004.
The EIR 2004 implemented Directive 2003/4/EC of 28 January 2003 on public access to environmental information, but also relevant parts of the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention). The UK ratified the Aarhus Convention in 2005 and remains a Party to it.
The relevant parts of the Aarhus Convention require the Parties to provide access to environmental information through their public authorities. Access is provided not only proactively, for example through publication of environmental information on their websites, but also in response to specific requests for information.
No Government has done more to tackle the issue of storm overflow discharges. This Government is the first to take such comprehensive action on storm overflows – and our new Plan for Water sets out the increased investment, tougher enforcement and tighter regulation to tackle this issue.
We have increased the number of storm overflows monitored across the network from 7% in 2010 to almost 90% now monitored, and we will reach 100% cover by end of this year. Using powers in the landmark Environment Act, we will also significantly improve transparency by requiring companies to make discharge data available in near real time to the public and monitor water quality upstream and downstream of their assets.
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