Administrations must respond to written requests for environmental information. The Law of 5 August 2006 lays down specific provisions concerning, among other things, the form of the request, the time limit within which the information must be provided and the cases in which a request for information may be refused.  

The Act talks about 'consulting on site any environmental information available to an environmental authority, obtaining explanations about it and receiving a copy'. The Act therefore allows environmental information to be obtained in two different ways: either by going on site and consulting the desired information, or by requesting it in writing from the authority concerned.  The concept of environmental information is interpreted broadly: if the answer is in a more general document but one that contains environmental information, the request falls under this Act. The material medium is irrelevant, since this information may be available in written, visual, audio, electronic or any other form.

If the information does not exist or cannot be obtained from the authority from which it is requested, the authority cannot respond to the request or must transfer it to the authority presumed to have the information. In some cases, the authority may consider that it cannot disclose the requested information for reasons related to interests deemed to be over-riding: commercial confidentiality, public security, environmental protection, etc.

Which authority?

The law refers to "environmental authorities". These are administrations (Federal Public Services, Federal Public Programming Services, public utilities), as well as companies and private individuals insofar as they carry out public service roles related to the environment.

In Belgium, competences in environmental matters are divided between the Regions (for the most part) and the federal authority (CCIEP). Departments not directly related to the environment, such as the Federal Public Services Economy or Mobility, may also have access to environmental information.

Under Any question about the environment?, you will find a list of topics on which you can obtain information from the Federal Public Service Public Health, Safety of the Food Chain and Environment. 

Go to appeal

Any citizen may lodge an appeal with the Federal Appeals Commission for Access to Environmental Information (NL/DE/FR) if they consider that their request for information has not been properly dealt with by the authority (failure to comply with the deadline for replying, failure to reply, negative reply, etc.).

The composition and functioning of this Commission were laid down in the Royal Decree of 20 December 2006. The appointment of the members of this Commission is set out in the Royal Decree of 4 February 2020.

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