Court ban on classifying State environmental assessments
On 25 November 2009 the Lviv District Administrative Court fully allowed the civil suit brought by the organization “Environment – People – Law” against the Lviv Regional State Department for the Protection of the Environment.
The Court’s ruling:
- declares unlawful the actions of the Lviv Regional Department for the Protection of the Environment in treating State Environmental Assessments as information which can be classified as “For official use only” [in Ukrainian DSK];
- declares unlawful and revokes the provisions of Order No. 31-I of the Lviv Regional Department for the Protection of the Environment from 19.05.09 pertaining to Item 14 of Appendix No. 1 “List of confidential information which can be classified as “For official use only” in the Lviv Regional Department for the Protection of the Environment;
- orders the Lviv Regional Department for the Protection of the Environment to refrain from classifying State Environmental Assessments as “For official use only”.
This ruling is extremely important for the public since these environmental assessments are basically the only source of information defining the level of environmental risk and danger of planned or already undertaken actions, establishes where the subject of the assessment complies with environmental legislation, building norms and rules and assessments the impact of the subject of the assessment on the state of the environment and quality of natural resources, as well as assessing the effectiveness, scope, grounds and sufficiency of measures on protecting the environment.
Yet since May 2006, the Lviv Regional Department for the Protection of the Environment had deemed the results of State Environmental Assessments to be confidential information which could be classified as “For official use only”.
This created an amazingly effective mechanism for not implementing the provisions of the Constitution and the Aarhus Convention to the benefit of industry, consistently using measures aimed at increasing the level of secrecy through one Order after another.
For over three years a considerable amount of environmental information was unavailable to the public and no environmental assessments were made public as is required by the Aarhus Convention and the Law on Environmental Impact Assessments, or the Cabinet of Ministers Instruction No. 1628-I from 27 December 2008.
This ruling ensures open access to all environmental impact assessments previously classified as for official use only and mainly provides the guarantee that in future it will be inconceivable for environmental assessments to be classified as confidential.
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