An Environmental Rights Amendment for NJ: Panacea or Portent?

November 21, 2018
Bruce S, Katcher, Carol F. McCabe and Thomas M. Duncan
New Jersey Law Journal

Currently pending before the New Jersey Legislature are concurrent resolutions, ACR85 and SCR134, which embody an environmental rights amendment to New Jersey's constitution, Modeled after Article 1, Section 27, of the Pennsylvania Constitution, the New Jersey Environmental Rights Amendment would read as follows:

(a)  Every person has a right to a clean and healthy environment, including pure water, clean air, and ecologically healthy habitats, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic qualities of the environment. The State shall not infringe upon these rights, by action or inaction.

(b) The State’s public natural resources, among them its waters, air, flora, fauna, climate, and public lands, are the common property of all the people, including both present and future generations. The State shall serve as trustee of these resources, and shall con-serve and maintain them for the benefit of all people.

(c) This paragraph and the rights stated herein are (1) self-executing, and (2) shall be in addition to any rights conferred by the public trust doctrine or common law.

New Jersey’s process for adopting a constitutional amendment would require either a three-fifths majority in the Senate and Assembly, or a majority vote in each house in two consecutive years, prior to submission to the voters, who must then approve by a majority vote. Assuming that the three-fifths majority in each house could be met, the earliest the amendment could go before the voters would be the November 2019 ballot.

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