Encroachments onto our environment are becoming all too common. Much of the damage done is irreparable, often impacting large segments of the population for extended periods of time, and done with seemingly little or no recourse for the affected parties. When current laws and regulations have been unsuccessful at preventing environmental harm, stronger, more meaningful legislation is required that would ensure the public health and safety of not just present, but future generations.
A campaign is beginning, For the Generations, to motivate citizens to demand and secure high level Constitutional Environmental Rights in their states, and in doing so, provide the people with the legal framework to combat actions that violate their right to healthy environment.
On May 18, 1971, The Pennsylvania Supreme Court established in Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution that:
“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
This amendment formally acknowledges the people’s rights to these natural resources and establishes the role of the state to be a trustee of these resources. However, it was not until very recently that the weight of the law was given its due realization. In the 2013 landmark case of Robinson Township, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, et al v. Commonwealth, the PA Supreme Court found provisions of Pennsylvania’s Act 13 law unconstitutional – that by upholding Act 13, which allowed oil and gas to bypass municipal zoning laws, the state would be sanctioning harmful degradation of environmental quality of life for its citizens, especially without substantive due process.
In effect, the case underscores the authority of the Environmental Rights Amendment to secure protections of our rights to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment. It is our hope that we can inspire in citizens of other states an agenda to adopt into a Constitutional bill of rights, a commonplace expression of our fundamental rights to clean air, pure water, and healthy environment.
The movement is already underway, but each step is bound to your actions. Please take the first steps by contacting your State Senator, Representative, and Governor, urging for an Environmental Rights Amendment.