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  • EIR homing in on the Utility giants

    Posted on September 21st, 2009 admin No comments
    Whose dung is it anyway?

    Whose dung is it anyway?

    I had a call from the Information Commissioner’s office yesterday about the prospect of utility companies falling under the remit of the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs).

    When the Act first came in it was implied that water and electricity utilities would come under the umbrella of those organisations that were covered by the Act.

    However, perhaps unsurprisingly the utility companies have not all wanted to join the information revolution.

    The key part of the Act is S.2 and says that those bodies that fall under the Act include “any other body or other person, that carries out functions of public administration” – not unreasonably people had expected that those organisations that bring us our water and electricity might fall under this section.

    Some utilities already accept this view and are answering Environmental Information Requests already. But not all of them.

    I asked Thames Water the following question earlier this year: “Please could you tell me the volume of human sewage, referred to as sludge, that has been sold by Thames Water in each of the following financial years (05/06), (06/07), (07/08) and (08/09)? For each year also state the total income received by Thames Water for the sale of the product.”

    I thought the fact that Thames Water might be coining it in by selling our c**p (quite literally) to farmers would make a good story. My letter to the Chief Executive went unanswered I’m afraid, as did a follow up to the press office.

    So I complained to the Information Commissioner and was told that I am one of at least ten requests that are being “parked” while the issue of whether the EIRs apply to utilities is discussed.

    It would appear that a number of tactics are being used by the Information Commissioner to resolve the issue and that legal action against the utilities is not being ruled out, although a voluntary agreement would be preferable.

    I am told the issue will be settled “sooner rather than later” but remembering the Commissioner works to a geological timescale I won’t be holding my breath.

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