s39: Environmental Information


  • Release of environmental information is governed by the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR's), which overrides the FOI Act, and any other UK legislation that could prevent disclosure of Environmental Information (see definition below);
  • There is a stronger public interest for disclosure of information that affects the environment. Information must be disclosed if it is in the public interest to do so, and can only be refused if a specific exception in the EIR's applies;
  • All exceptions in the EIR's are subject to a public interest test.

'Environmental information' is defined as any information in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form on -

  1. 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,
  2. factors, such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste, including radioactive waste, emissions, discharges and other releases into the environment, affecting or likely to affect the elements of the environment referred to in (a),
  3. measures (including administrative measures), such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements, and activities affecting or likely to affect the elements and factors referred to in (a) and (b) as well as measures or activities designed to protect those elements,
  4. reports on the implementation of environmental legislation,
  5. cost-benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used within the framework of the measures and activities referred to in (c), and
  6. the state of human health and safety, including the contamination of the food chain, where relevant, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures inasmuch as they are or may be affected by the state of the elements of the environment referred to in (a) or, through those elements, by any of the matters referred to in (b) and (c).

Examples of information that may fall under this exemption:

  • information relating to GM crop trials, to pesticide testing, to diseased cattle etc
  • land-use planning (including the reasons for decisions to approve as well as to refuse planning permission) as
  • reports on the implementation of environmental legislation and any analysis resulting from an appraisal of policy, including any Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA).

Sources of further information

More detailed guidance notes about this exemption can be found by viewing the following links:

Visit the DEFRA website for more information about the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR's)