EU and international laws grant the right of access to information on industrial activities. But are these laws respected? How useful are they to promote compliance and environmental benchmarking?
The Burning: The Evidence report published by the EEB in 2017 revealed that over half of EU member states failed to share crucial information about highly-polluting industries 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 list to the websites assessed for the report are available here.
The report investigated online access to the information including permitting conditions for all major industrial plants in the EU, including coal-fired power stations, large waste incinerators and intensive agricultural facilities. The findings pose serious questions about some countries’ commitment to European environmental protections and compliance with international access to information requirements.
The reports findings posed serious questions about some countries’ commitment to European environmental protections and compliance with international access to information requirements.
This report aims to contribute to the improvement of public access to environmental information, and, in turn, to drive improvements in environmental performance by industry across Europe.
The key conclusions and recommendations are:
- 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.
Filling the gap: the EEB’s Industrial Plant Data Viewer
To respond to the information vacuum identified by the report, the EEB released in 2020 the Industrial Plant Data Viewer (IPDV), an online tool that enables the public to access and compare data on industrial activities, including permit limits. The first version of the database is focussed on energy generation from large combustion plants in the EU.
This tool aims to allow:
- the identification of utilities that make use of derogations from stricter environmental controls, and the external impacts this may cause;
- an assessment of how those plants perform against the set Best Available Techniques associated emission levels set in the LCP BREF.
Find out more about the Industrial Plant Data Viewer.