Online Access to Information

In 2017 the EEB published the Burning: The Evidence report. It found that more than half of the EU's Member States were failing to share crucial information about highly-polluting industry effectively online. Many were failing to meet even the minimum requirements for transparency set in EU law. 

Research into 26 EU Member States, Norway and a number of regional authorities found a huge divergence in the quality and quantity of information available.

The report found that Norway, Ireland and Bulgaria were offering their citizens excellent access to information but that essential documents were missing in Austria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, and the United Kingdom. The report’s key findings are displayed on the Burning: The Evidence Interactive map. A full list of the access to information websites assessed in each member state is available, further information is contained in the report itself. 

The report investigated online access to the information including permitting conditions for all major industrial plants in the EU and checked compliance with the requirements of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED). IED plants include all major power stations, large waste incinerators and intensive agricultural facilities, the report looked in particular for information about coal-fired Large Combustion Plants because of their significance as the largest single-source polluters in Europe. 

The reports findings posed serious questions about some countries’ commitment to European environmental protections and compliance with international access to information requirements.

This report’s conclusions and recommendations in brief:

  • The Commission should investigate the countries failing to meet the basic requirements of the IED and take action to rectify this. Member States not yet fulfilling their obligations should check the best practice identified by this report when developing their systems. 
  • National portals should gather permitting information from all regions. If this is impractical, a national-level IED information page with detailed links to regional authorities and the locations of permitting information should be provided. 
  • The Irish EPA’s search function should serve as best practice for other websites. If searchable databases already exist for other environmental permitting information, these should be expanded to include IED permits. 
  • IED permits should be uploaded in a useful electronic format rather than as scanned versions of original printed documents. When updated, permits should be consolidated into a single document. 
  • Compliance and inspection reports should be published together with permitting information on a single plant-specific information page where as much relevant information as exists is gathered. 
  • Emissions monitoring data and baseline/site remediation reports should also be published alongside PRTR data on plant-specific information pages. 
  • Extra attention should be given to websites’ user friendliness. Information beyond the bare minimum required should be published. Authorities should make an effort to proactively share information ahead of decisions to issue, update or renew permits. 
  • No fees or charges should be incurred for accessing environmental information. 
  • The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) should be improved and enhanced and linked to additional environmental information. 
  • A harmonised European IED Electronic Permit Template (EPT) and other common documents should be introduced.