NJ Considers Rights To Clean Environment For Voters

Voters in New Jersey will soon be asked a fundamental question: Should the state provide its residents the right to a clean environment? 

The state is famous for its beaches, blueberries, and the smelly chemical industries and refineries that border some of its main roadways.

The “green amendment” would provide people the legal recourse they need to fight back against what they perceive as violations of their environmental rights; proponents of the measure believe it’s a long time coming.

Nevertheless, the law’s detractors, who include business organizations, express concern about potential unforeseen outcomes. Claiming a violation of their right to a clean ocean, opponents of offshore wind projects—one of New Jersey’s primary climate change initiatives—may be able to challenge and ultimately derail the projects in court.

Maya van Rossum, who founded Green Amendments For The Generations and heads the Delaware Riverkeeper organization in New Jersey, said that while three states—Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania—have already established constitutional rights to a clean environment via comparable amendments, another fifteen are either contemplating or anticipate doing so soon.

The bill’s author, Democratic state senator Linda Greenstein, stated that it would ensure the essential components of a healthy lifestyle daily.

However, the bill fails to clarify the provision’s practical implementation. There is no designated body to enforce the law or resolve any problems that may arise from it. Those who feel wronged will likely have to resort to the legal system as their only option.

According to Bill Wolfe, a longtime opponent of the state’s environmental protection agency and a former department official, the state already serves as trustee for these resources according to the Public Trust Doctrine. This legal principle originated in the Roman Empire and has been utilized by the state in other domains, such as beach and waterway access.

He and others have stated that they do not anticipate an avalanche of lawsuits due to the new law, referencing the outcomes in other states that have implemented such measures.