Activists, lawmakers and New Jersey residents gather to urge a public hearingon the amendment of the state constitution to grant environmental rights
Trenton, NJ: Organizers of the New Jersey judiciary, legislators, environmental leaders and residents gathered to urge the state legislature to grant a hearing for the proposed New Jersey Green Amendment (ACR72/SCR15), which would constitutionally recognize the environmental rights of people in the state and will protect. The proposed green amendment would add the right to clean air, clean water and a healthy environment to the Bill of Rights in the NJ state constitution.
First proposed almost 5 years ago in 2017, the NJ Green Amendment has received bipartisan support in the Legislature, with 60 Legislative Supporters currently signed. Despite the bill’s 60 bipartisan co-sponsors and outside public support, the NJ Legislature has not held a hearing on the amendment for nearly four years. At the only hearing in 2018 before the Senate Environment Committee, the bill passed by a bipartisan majority of committee members (4 committee members voted yes with one abstention).
“Denying the people of New Jersey an opportunity to testify about the proposed Green Amendment is patently unfair and betrays the people’s right to choose how they want to be governed. The state constitution belongs to the people and sets their goals and priorities for government. Clean water and air, a stable climate and a healthy environment are inalienable human rights that should be constitutionally protected. It is time for lawmakers to give people a voice on whether they want their inalienable rights to a clean, safe and healthy environment to be entitled to constitutional recognition and protection,” he said Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper, founder of the national movement Green Amendments For The Generations and author of the book The Green Amendment, the people’s fight for a clean, safe and healthy environment.
“In recent years, New Jersey has earned a reputation for enacting bold, equity-focused policies that protect the health of all New Jersey residents equally,” he said Senate Lead Sponsor Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “The Green Amendment is an excellent way to further fulfill this mission. By passing this bill, New Jersey would be poised to continue leading the way and enshrine the right to clean air and clean water for all residents in our state constitution.”“New Jersey is a national leader in environmental protection. We pioneered wetland protection, sponsored the nation’s strongest environmental justice law, and introduced the first and strongest PFAS protection in the country, and yet we still face serious environmental and justice issues in our state,” he added Assembly main sponsor John McKeon (D-Essex). NJ should lead the way in passing a green constitutional amendment to ensure we raise the bar to protect the rights of present and future generations to the basic foundations of healthy, safe and happy living – clean water and air, a stable climate and healthy environments. For my part, I want the people of New Jersey to have an opportunity to testify and let their elected officials, including myself, know if they want their constitution changed to protect environmental rights. I am a Principal Sponsor of the NJ Green Amendment and I am here today because I want our state to continue to lead in its environmental heritage and advocate for a constitutional right to a clean, safe and healthy environment.” “If the NJ State Legislature fails to give the people of NJ a hearing on the Green Change, it would be a slap in the face to Environmental Justice (EJ) leaders and organizations across the state. We represent EJ communities across the state, and with our many EJ partners and our network of over 100,000 members, things would not go well. The right to clean water and clean air is developing at a snail’s pace. Once again, New Jersey is lagging behind or embracing pioneering and national trends. Assemblyman Englebright (NYC) started later and finished earlier than New Jersey. What is our raid in New Jersey? It’s time to step up in New Jersey. Our legislature and the people of New Jersey deserve to have their voices heard now,” he said Terrance Bankston, NJ Environmental Justice Organizer, Clean Water Action. “A Green Amendment aims to secure a constitutional right to clean water, clean air, a stable climate and a healthy environment for all residents (including future generations), regardless of what zip code one lives in. Proud to be a sponsor of SCR15,” explained Senate Co-Principal Sponsor Andrew Zwicker (D-Middlesex/Mercer/Somerset). “The fight to save our planet will be the ultimate challenge not only for our own lives but also for the lives of our children and their children. The Green Amendment is a sensible measure that protects New Jersey’s public natural resources and ecosystems and enshrines in our constitution the right to a clean and healthy environment, including clean water and clean air,” he continued Assembly Co-Main Sponsor Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson). “I’m here today to advocate for the rights of all New Jersey residents so they can weigh up whether they want a constitutional right to a clean, safe, and healthy environment. The Green Amendment precludes government action when reasonable efforts are not made to address the environmental impacts of development, and does so without sacrificing constitutionally protected property rights. It recognizes the duty of government to preserve, protect and conserve our natural resources, mitigated by legitimate development to improve the lot of citizens, especially those who need a safe, affordable place to call home . It does so with common sense and without frivolous complaints. It’s the right balance and it can’t go fast enough,” he said Congregation Co-Sponsor Mila Jasey (D-Essex).
“Just as the League of Women Voters of New Jersey believes everyone has a fundamental right to vote, we believe everyone has a fundamental right to clean air, clean water and a healthy environment,” he said Melissa Marks, League of Women Voters of New Jersey Community Organizer. “The Green Amendment is an opportunity for New Jersey to draw a line in the sand – to give its residents a fundamental right to breathe clean air. We stand with our allies across the state and call on legislative leadership to step up and move this important measure forward.”
“Here in Newark, we know that the environment and public health are not partisan issues. It’s neither conservative nor liberal, but it’s certainly right to limit government violations of people’s rights, including the right to breathe clean air and drink clean water, and that’s what this bill does, let’s get it done !”, he added Kim Gaddy, Founder, South Ward Environmental Alliance and National Environmental Justice Director, Clean Water Action.
“Environmental rights can never be taken for granted, and a green change can help close loopholes in the law while protecting against new threats to our air, water and climate. There is a massive majority of New Jerseyers’ support for the Green Amendment because environmental protection is a fundamental principle for the public — now we need to put it in the state constitution,” he said Doug O’Malley, Environmental Director New Jersey.
“Given New Jersey’s particularly long history of slavery, poverty and corruption, New Jersey leaders have a duty and a choice for their people at this point in 2022: to ensure that environmental racism is met with solutions that are preventive and on legal basis is based on the benefits of all New Jersey residents or the status quo,” he explained Rachel Dawn Davis, Public Order and Justice Organizer at Waterspirit. “The right to clean air, clean water, a stable climate and a healthy environment for future generations remains apolitical, as evidenced by the bipartisan co-sponsorship of ACR72/SCR15. Hearing and driving forward such policy reform today that will prevent pollution of the most polluted problem areas in this state for generations to come will complement the environmental justice laws currently in effect.”
Bridget Brady, communications and advocacy coordinator for the Delaware Riverkeeper Network Offers: “Up and down the Delaware River, New Jerseyers enjoy the river for boating, fishing, bird watching, swimming; there are businesses across the region that depend on the river to stay clean and healthy; There are people who are committed to protecting our river and environment for present and future generations. When the Delaware Riverkeeper Network is out there doing our work, advocating and litigating for the river, we hear a consistent comment: Given 5 years of opportunity, it’s high time for the New Jersey Legislative leadership to get the people on board with the idea to let the constitutional environmental rights have their say. Let the people be heard!”
That Reverend Charles Loflin, Executive Director of NJ’s Unitarian Universalist Faith Action, states: “As Unitarian Universalists, we believe that everyone has the right to a clean and healthy environment, including clean water, clean air, and ecologically sound habitats. Our current laws have proven inadequate. Environmental justice communities have been particularly hard hit as they suffer disproportionate placement and expansion of polluting industries. Therefore, we believe that a Green Amendment to the New Jersey state constitution is necessary to protect the environmental rights of all people and protect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. As part of the democratic process, we are calling on our elected lawmakers to vote for the joint resolution needed to put the question to voters when they vote this November.”
“The inspiring language of the proposed NJ Green Amendment puts environmental rights for present and future generations right where they belong—in the Constitution,” he adds Lindsey Kayman, President of the Environmental Education Fund.
At today’s press conference, residents from across the state took the opportunity to “testify” why having an NJ Green Amendment is important to them.
“The New Jersey Green Amendment is critical for all of us, but especially for younger generations, because it protects our right to clean water, clean air, a stable climate and a healthy environment,” he said Hope Lageman, resident of New Jersey. “The Green Amendment protects all people and guarantees our fundamental rights.”
When asked why the green change is important to him, James Mastrich Jr., a resident of New Jersey, replied: “Because I love my children”.
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