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Breaking Down State Green Amendments: Part II

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Kate Burgess
Conservation Coordinator

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A Brief History

The ink on the first Green Amendment dried in 1969, when then-Senator Franklin Kury authored the first Green Amendment in the nation in Pennsylvania. The amendment – Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania constitution – helped divert power away from oil and gas drilling plans to expand into vulnerable ecological areas. The amendment set a strong precedent for what’s allowable in Pennsylvania regarding drilling and fracking. Followed shortly by the first Earth Day, and the passage of the Clean Air and Water Acts, this amendment broke ground on citizen rights to a clean environment.

How has the Green Amendment been used?

Since then, Montana is the only other state that has adopted a Green Amendment (1971), with many others now in queue. Both Montana and Pennsylvania have used their Green Amendments in landmark legal cases. In Pennsylvania, lawyer and Green Amendment movement founder Maya van Rossum helped land a legal victory against fracking around the Delaware River watershed in 2013, which victory shone a spotlight on the long-ignored piece of legislation. In 2018, Montana used the amendment to strike down efforts by a mining company to extract gold around Yellowstone National Park.

What is the current status of the Green Amendment?

During the 2021 legislative session, 11 states proposed Green Amendment language in legislation. Several states made progress on the bills during the session including New York and Hawaii. New York’s in particular passed both houses twice and is now waiting for the governor’s signature so that it can be placed on the November 2021 ballot.

This year, 11 states are considering Green Amendment legislation.

As momentum continues to build, it will be prudent to take note of the lessons learned shared by state legislators. Cultivating grassroots support, public information sharing, and interstate communication has proved effective for the Green Amendments working their way through both chambers. By the end of the 2021 session, NCEL expects to report back on many other best practices for legislators interested in joining the movement.