The idea of a “green amendment” to the New York State Constitution has been kicking around the state legislature for nearly five years. It was finally put on the ballot as Proposition 2, and voters overwhelmingly approved it in the Nov. 2 election.
New York isn’t the first state to pass a green amendment, and they’re being considered in other states. New York’s amendment talks about ensuring that “each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.”
Everyone wants that, of course. But what does the amendment actually do, and why have there been objections to it?
What are the real-world implications of the amendment?
The amendment gives individuals and organizations in New York the right to bring a legal claim (known as “standing”) against a person or entity to stop an action that they believe would be harmful to the environment. They can also file a lawsuit if an action violated their environmental rights as outlined in the amendment. They further have the right to file a claim to stop a law that would violate those rights.
Not surprisingly, businesses and other organizations have opposed the amendment. They have argued that it will increase litigation for them, and thereby increase the cost of doing business – costs that will in many cases have to be passed on to consumers. They have also argued that the language in the amendment is not specific enough.
It’s far too early to tell what the ultimate impact of this amendment will be on businesses and public entities – and on the environment. It will be more crucial than ever to seek experienced legal guidance if you’re concerned about the potential of – or are already facing – legal action.