OLYMPIA – Yesterday, Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D-Bow) introduced a resolution to enact an amendment to the state constitution, ensuring the rights of all Washingtonians to clean water and air, a stable climate and healthy environment.
The Washington Green Amendment amends Article I of the Washington State Constitution to recognize the environmental rights of all people of Washington by protecting the, “right to a clean and healthy environment, including pure water, clean air, healthy ecosystems, and a stable climate, and to the preservation of the natural, cultural, scenic and healthful qualities of the environment” for both present and future generations.
Despite state environmental laws, regulations and agencies, Washington’s water, air, soils, and ecosystems are being degraded, affecting the health and lives of the state’s residents.
Establishing a Green Amendment would ensure that Washingtonians have legal redress when their rights to a clean and healthy environment are violated. As an enforceable environmental right, the Washington Green Amendment would also strengthen environmental justice by ensuring all communities – regardless of race, ethnicity, or income – have the same rights to clean and healthy environments and the duty of government to protect all communities equitably.
The Washington Green Amendment would encourage better environmental decision-making at all levels of government, including consideration of cumulative impacts of pollution, and will prevent conditions in which a community’s water, air, or soil becomes too contaminated to support healthy lives and a healthy economy. Finally, the Green Amendment would help protect natural environments and landscapes sacred to indigenous communities, as well as honor the traditional cultural connection to healthy natural resources.
“I believe this amendment is a foundation that generations of lawmakers can build upon to ensure we make decisions that reflect a prosperous economy and a healthy environment. If we are going to grow Washington; let us grow it in a way that reflects the values of generations of Washingtonians and all those who built this great state. This bill is not to hinder growth, the economy or jobs, it is to respect the history of Washingtonians who made decisions to preserve and honor, and to ensure our generations to come can enjoy a clean environment and healthy natural resources,” said Lekanoff.
As an amendment to the state constitution, the Washington Green Amendment requires two-thirds vote in each house of the Legislature. Once through the Legislature, the Washington Green Amendment would be included on the ballot during the next general election, allowing the people of Washington the opportunity to vote on whether environmental rights should be protected by the state constitution.
“Washington State is at the forefront of a growing Green Amendment movement seeking to secure Bill of Rights protection for the rights of all people to a clean and healthy environment. Most people are shocked to learn that while they have the rights to free speech, to freely worship and to bear arms, they do not have the same kind of constitutional rights recognition and protection for clean water, clean air, and healthy environments. Representative Lekanoff has been a staunch champion for the environment, for indigenous communities, and for all people to live safe and healthy lives; it is no wonder that she would be leading the effort to ensure the people of Washington state, including present and future generations, will have constitutional protection for their environmental rights and a powerful new pathway for securing true environmental justice,” said Maya van Rossum, Founder of Green Amendments For The Generations.
The Washington Green Amendment was modeled after the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which was successfully used to challenge legislation that opponents argued weakened environmental protections in the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act. Pennsylvania and Montana are the only states to currently have environmental rights amendments included in their constitutions, however, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia are considering Green Amendments.
HJR 4205 has been referred to the House Environment & Energy Committee.