Green Amendments (often called “environmental rights amendments”) are self-executing provisions added to the bill of rights of a state’s constitution. They aim to put environmental health and safety on par with our other civil liberties. These amendments would provide general, legally defensible expectations as to what constitutes a healthy environment for citizens. Most notable are individuals’ rights to clean air, water, and a stable climate. The concept of state Green Amendments has been spreading since lawyer and environmentalist Maya van Rossum helped secure a landmark legal victory against fracking around the Delaware River watershed, using Pennsylvania’s long-ignored Green Amendment.
Key Point 1
Green Amendments establish a constitutional mandate recognizing a healthy environment as an inherent, indefeasible, generational legal right of all citizens. (For the Generations)
Key Point 2
Once passed, government officials would be required to prioritize environmental protection when advancing energy policy, considering development, and crafting and implementing legislation and regulations. (FTG)
Key Point 3
Green Amendments support avoidance of unfair targeting of communities of color, indigenous communities and low income communities - groups often disproportionately affected by poor air and water standards. (FTG)
Key Point 4
Communities would be able to hold officials accountable when their actions, activities, and decisions cause environmental harm that violates environmental constitutional rights including for both present and future generations. (FTG)
- Currently, Pennsylvania (1971) and Montana (1971) are the only states with a constitutional Green Amendment. These have been applied in lawsuits regarding: mining, sewage sludge/water quality in residential communities, and accessibility of environmental protection funds.
- Measures have been introduced in: New York, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Maryland.
- At least six states are considering trying to advance a green amendment. The Green Amendment also has the support of 90 advocate groups that signed a letter backing the legislation in New York.