In negotiating Seveso III the European Commission sought to align the Directive with the UNECE Convention on public information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice on environmental (known as the Aarhus Convention ).
The Aarhus Convention is globally regarded as the benchmark for access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters and is based around three central pillars
The new public information requirements in Seveso III and the implications of alignment with the Aarhus Convention represents a culture shift for both industry and regulators.
In line with the Aarhus Convention the changes will mean that;
HSE is proposing that the basic information from all sites will be provided via an account-based, postcode searchable platform hosted by the COMAH Competent Authority on HSE’s website. This proposal was consulted on as part of the public consultation in May / June 2014 and further information will be put on these pages as it becomes available.
For the information that will have to be made available on request, appropriate guidance will be put in place to ensure that security or commerciality sensitive information is not made available in the public domain.
There is a strong presumption within the Seveso III Directive that certain information should be available to the public unless confidentiality provisions are met and this will be implemented through the COMAH Regulations 2015.
Seveso III and the Aarhus Convention also require access to justice provisions providing administrative and judicial review arrangements if any request for information is withheld and subsequently challenged.