Hawaii

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.

Check out Hawaii Green Amendment Talking Points here.

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.

Big News! On March 9, 2021 the amendment passed by an over 2/3 vote out of the Hawaii senate. If an equal level of support is secured in the House, the amendment will go before the people for their vote.

This amendment would guarantee “Each person has a right to a clean and healthy environment, including pure water, clean air and healthy ecosystems, and to the preservation of the natural, cultural, scenic and healthful qualities of the environment.  This provision and the rights stated herein are self-executing.  The reserved rights stated herein are equivalent to other protected inherent and inalienable rights.

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.

Check out this exclusive interview with Senator Gabbard and GAFTG Founder Maya van Rossum from National Green Amendment Day:

A Quote from Senator Gabbard

From Senator Gabbard’s floor remarks to be inserted into the Senate Journal:

Mr. President, I rise in strong support of SB 502 SD2. Colleagues, I worked with attorney and environmentalist Maya van Rossum of Delaware Riverkeeper Network on this Green Amendment legislation. In 2013, Maya had a major legal victory against fracking around the Delaware River watershed. This court case revived Pennsylvania’s long-ignored Constitutional Environmental Rights Amendment, empowering it to protect the people’s right to pure water, clean air, and a healthy environment. Currently, Pennsylvania (1971) and Montana (1971) are the only states with a constitutional Green Amendment. However, support for the constitutional right to a clean environment is gaining momentum in other states as well, as other Legislatures are beginning to recognize the power in including such basic, but strong legal language in a state constitution’s bill of rights. Likening rights of religious expression and speech to those of clean air and water, Green Amendments serve to emphasize environmental health and safety as being part of our basic civil liberties. SB 502 would amend our state constitution to guarantee all individuals the right to have a clean and healthy environment. Putting environmental rights on equal footing with other fundamental political rights and noting them as inalienable can allow for a high level of legal defensibility. If this bill passes, this question would be on the 2022 ballot for the Green amendment: “Shall the Constitution of the State of Hawai’i be amended to provide that each person has a right to a clean and healthy environment, including pure water, clean air, and healthy ecosystems, and to the preservation of the natural, cultural, scenic and healthful qualities of the environment?” Please join me in supporting this important bill. Mahalo. Mahalo for all you do for our planet, and its inhabitants!”

Learn about the process to amend the Hawaii Constitution here. More Hawaii specific resources and petition coming soon.

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