What is a Green Amendment?
Green Amendments are self executing provisions added to the Bill of Rights section of a constitution that recognize and protect the rights of all people – regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or income, including future generations – to pure water, clean air, a stable climate, and healthy environments.
What’s Happening in Hawaii?
Green Amendments For The Generations has been working closely the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL). to educate legislators across the nation on the value and power of a Green Amendment. Senator Mike Gabbard was inspired by a NCEL sponsored presentation by GAFTG Founder Maya van Rossum and reached out to start launching a Green Amendment Movement in Hawaii. In January 2021, Senator Gabbard proposed a Green Amendment (Senate Bill 502) in Hawaii. Joining Senator Gabbard in introducing the bill are Senator Acasio, Senator Chang, Senator Misalucha, Senator Rhoads, Senator Shimabukuro, Senator Fevella and Senator Moriwaki. The House companion is House Bill 551 and was introduced by Representatives Lowen, Decoite, Ganaden, Ichiyama, Kapela, Lopresti, Marten, McKelvey, Mizuno, Ohno, Perruso, Quinlan, Takayama, Tarnas And Wildberger.
February 3, 2021 the proposed Hawaii Green Amendment was unanimously voted out of the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee. You can read the testimony provided by Maya van Rossum and Green Amendments For The Generations here. On February 11, the amendment passed out of the House Water & Land Committee and the House Energy & Environmental Protection Committee. On February 23, 2021 the amendment passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Senate Ways and Means Committee.
This amendment would guarantee “individuals 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.”
Adding this language will strengthen the environmental protections already recognized in Article Article XI, Section 1 of the Hawaii Constitution that mandates the the State hold public natural resources—including land, water, air, minerals and energy sources—in trust for the benefit of all people Adding individual rights as proposed by Senator Gabbard’s Green Amendment language will create an enforceable individual right that is on par with other fundamental rights and compliments and strengthens the environmental rights of the people. Court cases have given strong and protective interpretation to Hawaii’s obligations to act as trustee of the states natural resources. But the constitutional language does not provide an enforceable individual right to pure water, clean air and healthy environments; instead Article XI Section 9 entrusts to the legislature the obligation to pass enforceable environmental laws — reaffirming the legislative approach to environmental protection. Constitutionally recognized individual environmental rights are needed to ensure that government action taken, including legislation passed, always honors the rights of the people to pure water, clean air, healthy ecosystems, a stable climate and the natural, cultural, scenic and healthful qualities of the environment.
We are already having conversations with Hawaii environmental and grassroots organizations to gauge interest and discuss strategy. We will continue to work with NCEL and Senator Gabbard to educate legislators, organizations and community members on the environmental rights of the people of Hawaii.
Learn about the process to amend the Hawaii Constitution here. More Hawaii specific resources and petition coming soon.
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