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NY to Add Right to a Clean Environment to State Constitution

Posted on 11/8/2021 by Lauren Scott

NY voters approved a measure on November 2 to revise the New York Constitution’s Bill of Rights to add the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment. The measure was included in the State’s local election as one of five referendum questions on the ballot.

The full ballot question that appeared on November 2 was as follows:
Right to Clean Air, Clean Water, and a Healthful Environment
The proposed amendment to Article I of the New York Constitution would establish the right of each person to clean air and water and a healthful environment. Shall the proposed amendment be approved?

With 99 percent of State districts reporting, 68.9 percent of voters approved the measure. Once the election results are certified, the amendment will be added to the Bill of Rights in Article I of the New York Constitution.
 

EPA’s Emphasis on Environmental Justice

In April 2021, US EPA’s new administrator outlined the agency’s Accelerating Environmental and Economic Justice initiative to protect overburdened and marginalized communities. The initiative is gaining wide traction through EPA’s grants, community partnerships, and enforcement actions.

Companies operating in these historically underserved communities may face unique challenges, including EPA inspections and impact assessments among other actions intended to benefit the surrounding pollution-burdened areas.

By emphasizing environmental justice, EPA plans to strengthen enforcement of cornerstone environmental statutes in communities overburdened by pollution, among other goals.
 

Additional State Environmental Justice Amendments

Although environmental justice has only recently taken center stage on a national level, adding environmental rights to a State constitution is not new.

In 1971, Pennsylvania voters passed the first state-level environmental rights constitutional amendment, guaranteeing “the people's right to clean air and pure water and the preservation and conservation, by the Commonwealth, of the State's natural resources for the people's benefit.”

Montana voters ratified a similar measure the following year. In 1972, the state added a new provision to Article IX of the Montana Constitution that reads “The state and each person shall maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana for present and future generations.”

Four other states also have constitutional environmental rights amendments, including Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
 

RCRA Training for New York Professionals

Be ready when new RCRA Rules take effect in New York!

The RCRA Hazardous Waste Management Webinar covers new rules that generators must know, including:
  • New marking/labeling rules for containers
  • New EPA notification and re-notification requirements
  • Expanded contingency planning requirements

Plus, learn how to capitalize on new reliefs available under the updated Federal regulations concerning episodic hazardous waste events (e.g. spills, lab cleanouts) and very small quantity generator sites.

On November 17, build confidence to manage compliance with unique, only-in-New-York rules for universal waste, used oil, PCBs, and more when Lion presents the New York Hazardous Waste Management Webinar.  

Tags: environment, environmental justice, EPA, NY, NYDEC

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