Policy Update

New York Becomes Third State with Green Amendment

Region

MidAtlantic

NCEL Point of Contact

Kate Burgess
Conservation Manager

Contact

On November 2, 2021, New York joined Pennsylvania and Montana in adding the right to a “healthful environment” to the State Constitution. New York voters overwhelmingly approved this ballot measure after the amendment passed the legislature in two successive sessions, sponsored by Assemblymember Steve Englebright.

What is a Green Amendment?

A green amendment (often called “environmental rights amendment”) guarantees its citizens the inalienable right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment. These amendments serve to emphasize environmental health and safety as being part of basic civil liberties. 

Environmental Justice Implications 

The Green Amendment is an invaluable tool for communities that are acutely and disproportionately affected by pollution. In the South Bronx, residents experience asthma hospitalizations at five times the national average and at rates 21 times higher than other NYC neighborhoods. 

The Green Amendment now provides environmental justice communities with new proactive measures to ensure that their right to a clean and healthful environment is protected for generations to come.

Looking Ahead

While this year brings shortened legislative sessions for many states, momentum is quickly building behind Green Amendments across the country.

In 2022, at least eight states—including Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Iowa, Washington, and West Virginia — have introduced legislation to advance or codify constitutional Green Amendments.