Three weeks, ministry must disclose address details nitrogen ejectors

Within three weeks, the Ministry of Agriculture must disclose the address details of some 3500 companies that were allowed to emit nitrogen without a licence between 2015 and 2019. Thats what the Council of State has determined. In doing so, the supreme administrative court confirms a ruling by the court of Northern Netherlands last June last year.

Between 2015 and 2019, companies were able to emit a limited amount of nitrogen without a license, thanks to the now offended Nitrogen Approach Program (PAS). However, a report had to be made. Environmental Organization Mobilisation for the Environment (MOB) by Johan Vollenbroek asked for disclosure of all PAS notifications. It is mainly about agricultural companies.

At the time Minister Schouten of Agriculture, however, refused to disclose all data, and only made the coordinates of the so-called emission source public. She did so to prevent a large amount of privacy-sensitive information from coming out.

But environmental organization MOB appealed against this and still demanded disclosure of the address details. The Council of State now agrees and points out that it concerns emissions data, which makes it environmental information. In that case, the Public Disclosure Act offers less opportunity to refuse information requests.

โ€œIf emission data is requested, the privacy of stakeholders should not play a role in deciding to disclose this data,โ€ says the Supreme Administrative Court. If the ministry does not disclose the data on time, it must pay a penalty payment to the environmental organization.

What about the nitrogen crisis again? CCeit op 3 made this explanation video at the time of protests by the farmers on Malieveld in The Hague:

Farmers organization LTO Netherlands is not happy with the ruling. โ€œIt feels absurd. Hundreds of farmers are being pursued legally while they have always acted in good faith and according to the law,โ€ says the organization. โ€œWith the Nitrogen Act and the coalition agreement, there is a gigantic emission reduction ahead. So why does their data still have to be papped on the street under the guise of public in management?โ€

According to LTO, the company data have a โ€œstrong personal characterโ€, because farmers often also live at the location where their farm is located. โ€œThe privacy of farmers should be protected.โ€

Verdict fully justified

Johan Vollenbroek from MOB calls that argument silly. โ€œThese are not sole proprietors, almost all of them have a legal form. And those addresses can simply be requested from the Chamber of Commerce.โ€

Vollenbroek is happy with the verdict. โ€œIt is perfectly justified. We knew two years ago that we were entitled to that data, and the minister knew that too. But under pressure from the farmers lobby, the minister trained the case for a year or two. We consider that to be an abuse of procedural law. It is unworthy of ministry.โ€

Vollenbroek calls it a matter of principle. โ€œEuropean legislation simply specifies what should be made public when it comes to environmental emissions. If the minister says that she has paint on it, she still has a problem with us. And in addition, it is a substantial number of companies that do not now have a nature permit. We have enforcement requests already in place.โ€