New regulations aim to increase environmental transparency

Companies, ministries will be required to post all environmental information on their Web sites and make it available at their offices.

reading power station 311 (photo credit: Yossi Weiss)
reading power station 311
(photo credit: Yossi Weiss)
New regulations that went into effect on Sunday are intended to enable the public to peruse more information about environmental pollution, although they lack any sort of enforcement.
Enacted under the Freedom of Information Act, they require 58 local authorities, as well as ministries and government companies, to post all environmental information in their possession on their Web sites and make it available at their offices. The rest of the local authorities have until 2012 to create such databases.
Data pertaining to air quality, noise, odors, sea and land pollution, as well as electromagnetic radiation, must be published on the authorities’ Web sites for at least a year, and be available for seven years at municipal offices. Such data would include the results of any monitoring or tests.
A random look at about a third of the Web sites of the of 58 local authorities on Monday revealed that most had yet to post any information. Jerusalem, Kfar Saba and Ra’anana did have information. Tel Aviv said it had collected data but was still deliberating how to publish it. Haifa did not appear to have published any information either.
The Environmental Protection Ministry posted some information in a new section of its Web site and also held seminars with all of its district offices on how to post information. The Treasury, Defense, National Infrastructures and Construction and Housing ministries had yet to post any information.
The regulations were passed in early 2009 – the product of lobbying by Citizens for the Environment in the Galilee since 2003. While CFE’s co-head, attorney Jamela Hardal-Wakim, praised the Environmental Protection Ministry for its efforts, she was more pessimistic about the chances of the regulations really catching on.
“Like the Freedom of Information Act itself, there’s no enforcement mechanism to ensure compliance,” she told The Jerusalem Post. “Without active enforcement, it is only the local authorities’ desire to reap positive publicity from an environmental perspective that incentivizes creating such a data registry.”
Nevertheless, ahead of the new regulations, CFE sent a letter to Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) praising the ministry for its leadership role and calling it a model for others to emulate. However, it has no enforcement or oversight role regarding any other authority’s database.
The new regulations represent a different format than some of the other aspects of the Freedom of Information Act. Instead of waiting for a request from a member of the public, the new regulations require authorities to actively put the results of tests and monitoring on their Web sites. According to the regulations, all new test results must be displayed for the public within three months. The authority does not have to provide an analysis of the data, just the raw data itself.
The regulations pertain to public authorities alone and do not apply to private corporations or entities.