The Green Amendment for New Mexico
What's Currently Proposed
Advanced by The Green Amendment for the Generations and many other environmental groups, the bill coming before the 2021 NM legislature (SJR 3 Environmental Rights, CA) would ask voters to approve a State Constitutional Amendment giving all New Mexicans a constitutional right to clean air, clean water, and unpolluted land. These rights would become inherent, inalienable, and indefeasible, and become among those rights reserved to all the people and on a par with other protected inalienable rights in the NM Constitution Bill of Rights. If approved by the legislators and then the voters, the Green Amendment would empower residents to be able to take legal action if they felt that their rights to a clean environment were being violated by either industry or government agency.
Why Have a Green Amendment?
Green Amendments emphasize environmental justice for impacted communities. It has been adopted in Pennsylvania, which had a huge coal mining industry, and whose lower income urban areas were heavily impacted by industries. A Green Amendment has also been adopted in Montana.
One of the biggest benefits from introducing a green amendment in New Mexico, would be to highlight the environmental impacts from oil and gas production and to enforce laws protecting local neighborhoods from their emissions. In particular, fracking is claimed to create unlivable conditions for those within breathing distance of wells. A constitutional green amendment may redouble efforts to strengthen and enforce the existing restrictions on fracking.
For some background and history, see:
- Green Amendment Movement Demands Constitutional Right to Clean Environment - Truthout - December 2019
- NM Green Amendment Talking Points pdf - January 6, 2021
For recent information see:
- Prefile Announcement Press Release - January 4, 2021
Doesn't Article XX Section 21 Cover Our Needs?
No. Article XX Section 21 cannot be used to infringe on environmental rights. Currently Art XX, Section 21 recognizes that “protection of the state’s beautiful and healthful environment is … of fundamental importance to the public interest, health, safety and the general welfare.” However, it does not provide self-executing, constitutional Bill of Rights protection of the environment for all people.
Instead, it recognizes the duty of legislators to legislate, and protects government action even when it devastatingly degrades our water, air, climate and environment. The repeal of this section included in the Green Amendment also recognizes that the existing Section 21 language has not fulfilled the intended goal of environmental protection and so is better replaced with the clear, concise, compelling and enforceable language of a new proposed Article II Section 25.1.
What is a Green Amendment?
Green Amendments establish a constitutional mandate recognizing a healthy environment as an inherent, indefeasible, generational legal right of all citizens.
Once passed, government officials would be required to consider and prioritize environmental protection when advancing energy policy, considering development, and crafting and implementing legislation and regulations. Failure to do so could risk legal action under the new Green Amendment' constitutional rights.
Green Amendments support avoidance of unfair targeting of communities of color, indigenous communities and low income communities - groups often disproportionately affected by poor air and water standards.
Communities would be able to hold officials accountable when their actions, activities, and decisions cause environmental harm that violates environmental constitutional rights including for both present and future generations.
Green Amendments are self executing provisions added to the bill of rights section of a state's 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. Two leading organizations for Green Amendments provide more information:
Resolution for Proposing New Mexico Green Amendment Language - as of Oct 1, 2020
SECTION 1. It is proposed to amend Article 2 of the constitution of New Mexico by adding a new section to read:
A. The people of the state, including future generations, have 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.
B. The state, including each branch, agency, and political subdivision, shall serve as trustee of the natural resources of the state, among them its waters, air, flora, fauna, climate and public lands. The state shall conserve, protect, and maintain these resources for the benefit of all the people, including generations yet to come.
C. The rights stated in this section are inherent, inalienable, and indefeasible and are among those rights reserved to all the people and are on par with other protected inalienable rights. The provisions of this section are self-executing.
SECTION 2. It is proposed to amend Article 20 of the constitution of New Mexico by repealing Section 21.
How to Pass a Green Amendment to the New Mexico Constitution
Both houses of the New Mexico legislature have to agree to put the question before the voters in an election. If the majority of voters approve the constitutional amendment it is then adopted.
The Constitution of New Mexico provides that the legislature, by a majority vote of all members elected to each house, may propose amendments revising the constitution and that proposed amendments must then be submitted to the voters of the state for approval. A proposed amendment becomes part of the state's constitution if a majority of the votes cast in an election on the proposition is cast in its favor, unless the proposed amendment affects one of the sections for which a three-fourths' majority is required. Proposed constitutional amendments become effective upon approval by the voters unless an effective date is provided within the text of the proposed amendment.