We write to express our strongest support for A.2064/S2072, a bill to amend the New York State Constitution to recognize the environmental rights of the people of New York. This legislation would amend Article 1, the Bill of Rights, of the New York State Constitution to insert a new Section 19, recognizing the inalienable and self-executing right of all New Yorkers to clean water, clean air, and healthy environment.
Most New Yorkers are shocked to learn New York’s Constitution does not guarantee them a right to drink clean water and breathe clean air. The right to clean water, air and a healthful environment should be as fundamental as a person’s right to free speech and assembly. In fact, the right to divorce, engage in lotteries and gamble are recognized as inalienable rights that are afforded higher protections under New York law because of their inclusion in the Bill of Rights. New Yorkers deserve better.
It is our firm belief that amending the Bill of Rights to recognize our right to clean water, clean air, and a healthy environment will drive better government decision-making at all levels of government and will prevent situations or conditions in which water becomes too polluted, air too dirty, land too contaminated, and natural landscapes too decimated to support healthy lives, including a healthy economy. Every aspect of our lives from our health, to our property values, to the quality of our lives and recreation are impacted by the health of our environment; as such, protecting our environmental rights is fundamentally important. This amendment to the Bill of Rights complements (i.e. does not displace) Article XIV of the New York State Constitution, the Conservation Article, which calls for protection of the State’s natural resources and recognizes environmental protection as important public policy.
Furthermore, enshrining environmental rights sends the message that New York is a true national leader on the environment. Forty-three states or commonwealths have some form of expression of environmental values in their Constitutions; but only the State of Montana and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have recognized protecting environmental rights as inalienable, putting environmental rights on par with other political and civil liberties. We believe that it is time for New York to do the same and amend its Constitution to recognize the right to clean air and water, and a healthy environment.
We call on you to join us, and the New Yorkers we represent, to support A.2064/S2072; our health and environment depends on taking this forward action. Together we will work for first passage this year, and subsequent passage so that it may be presented to New York voters in 2021.
[All who sign on will be listed by name, title and organization]
cc: Legislative sponsors