freeline-30 - Page 17

Nowhere to hide for utility giants
A decision notice published by the
Information Commissioner’s Office
last week confirms that electricity
and gas companies are subject to the
same public scrutiny of how their
activities affect the environment as
the water industry. The decision
means that all utilities have a legal
duty to disclose directly to the public
the environmental information they
hold on request.
The decision followed a refusal by
E.ON UK Plc to provide information to
Fish Legal who were representing a
charter boat owner facing exclusion
from areas around a windfarm off the
Brighton coast. The Information Commissioner’s Office upheld Fish Legal’s
subsequent complaint, a decision
that E.ON UK Plc then appealed in
the courts unsuccessfully.
The decision extends the scope of
information law beyond the 2015
landmark case won by Fish Legal in
which the Upper Tribunal ruled that
water and sewage companies in England and Wales were subject to environmental information regulation.
Fish Legal solicitor, Geoff Hardy,
“ We a r e v e r y p l e a s e d
with this decision. It is a
blow to those utility companies wishing to withhold
information on the environmental impacts of their
activities. We hope that
they recognise and
embrace their duty to disclose information in the
interest of greater transparency, particularly now
that matters relating to the
environment carry
widespread public interest.”
He added: “The ruling is
particularly important when
it comes to renewables such as wind
farms and hydro-electric schemes.
Any negative impacts on the environment of such schemes, which are
often brushed-over, cannot now be
hidden away.”
Fish Legal Chief Executive, Jamie
Cook, said:
“I am already aware that half the
battle in challenging activities that
damage fisheries and the wider environment is access to information.
That is why this decision is so impor-
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tant, not only for anglers but for
everyone who has questions about
whether these multinational companies are acting in the best interests of
the environment or their shareholders.”
He added: “It goes to show, once
again, that anglers are at the forefront
of the fight to shine a light on the
impact of big business on the environment and we will continue to act
on our members’ behalf to hold them
account.” n
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