The Green Amendment would help us breathe easier, but industry prefers to keep choking us on their fumes and poisoning our water, while state regulations are ignored. If we pass the Green Amendment, residents can force state agencies to enforce the regs and laws they designed to protect us.
Why Pass Regs If You Won’t Enforce Them?
NM passed stringent methane release regulations, routinely cited at the Governor’s campaign stops, but rarely enforced by her administration. A recent Searchlight report verified unchecked methane releases throughout the Permian Basin with virtually no inspections being conducted or fines levied.
HB 546, The Produced Water Act, charged the NM Environment Dept. with responsibility to monitor and regulate produced water leaks, and despite an estimated ,such leaks between 2016-2019, virtually no penalties have been assessed.
NM is subject to a well-documented array of environmental harms from radiation, methane, gas, oil, and produced water spills, yet our 100% Blue State government, is far from 100% Green, too often operating in collusion with industry than regulating it, effectively implementing the Governor’s infamous “I work for you,” pronouncement to NM Oil & Gas Association a few years ago.
The Green Amendment provides NM residents with a tool for forcing the government to do its job and enforce its laws and regulations. Today, we focus on the Green Amendment, and at the bottom of the post we offer a link to register for our important Thursday Zoom webinar with Green Amendment leadership when we will discuss how the amendment has been implemented in other states and our strategy to get it passed in NM. Details and link below. Sign up today!!!
HJR4 – SJR6 Environmental Rights Act, AKA Green Amendment
For decades, activists have relied on federal and state legislation to fight for a cleaner environment. And for decades, they’ve been fighting a losing battle. The sad truth is, our laws are designed to accommodate pollution and legalize environmental degradation rather than prevent them. It’s no wonder people feel powerless when it comes to preserving the quality of their water, air, climate, public parks, and special natural spaces.
The Green Amendment is a self-executing provision added to the bill of rights section of a state Constitution that recognizes and protects the rights of all people, including future generations, to pure water, clean air, a stable climate, and healthy environments regardless of race, ethnicity, tribal membership status, socioeconomics, or geography. In November 2021, with over 70% of voters in favor, New York became the third state (joining Pennsylvania and Montana) to add a Green Amendment to its constitution. Efforts to pass Green Amendments are under way in multiple states, including NM, where it was first introduced in 2021 as SJR3, the Environmental Rights Act. Despite broad Democrat support in the legislature and intense grassroots lobbying, fierce industry opposition has prevented the resolution from getting to the floor of either the NM State House or Senate. It is time we change that.
What the HJR 4 – SJR 6 Environmental Rights Act Would Do
HJR 4 – SJR 6 would amend the NM State Constitution by adding a new section to Article 2 to provide the people of the state with environmental rights, including the right to clean and healthy air, water, soil, and environments, a stable climate, and self-sustaining ecosystems, and directs the state, counties, and municipalities to serve as trustees of the natural resources of New Mexico for the benefit of all the people by repealing the current pollution control provisions of Article 20 Section 21.
If the legislature passes HJR4 or SJR 6, the Green Amendment would be placed on the 2024 General Election ballot. The Governor does not need to sign the resolution; if it passes either chamber, it goes straight to the voters. If approved by the voters, New Mexico residents who feel they are being harmed by environmental conditions that are supposed to be regulated by a state agency could file suit, not to seek financial compensation, but to force regulatory action to protect them from the environmental harms to which they are subject. Essentially the Green Amendment allows a resident to go to court to force the state to enforce its environmental laws and regulations and protect residents from preventable environmental harms.
Why This Legislation Is Good for NM
- Adding a Green Amendment to the state constitution would mandate that our government officials respect and protect the right to clean air, water, and land for all residents of the state.
- The Green Amendment simply provides residents with a tool for forcing the state to implement the environmental protections that have been put into law by the legislature or Congress. The Green Amendment does not provide residents with the power to ask the courts to direct the legislature to create legislation to establish new protections.
- Despite robust NM legislation and regulation in place to protect residents from environmental harm, many of these regulations go unenforced by the state agencies charged with enforcement.
- The oil and gas industry in NM emits 570,000 tons of methane a year, the equivalent climate impact of 12 coal-fired power plants. Methane pollution, a known carcinogen, has more than doubled in the Permian Basin since 2011.
- NM passed stringent methane release regulations, routinely cited at the Governor’s campaign stops, but rarely enforced by her administration. A recent Searchlight report verified unchecked methane releases throughout the Permian Basin and reviewed OCD reports to verify that virtually no inspections were being conducted or fines levied.
- Native nations such as the Navajo, Ute, Pueblo, and Apache are on the frontlines of environmental racism in our state, with radioactive wastewater pollution, desecration of sacred sites for oil infrastructure, and water contamination from fracking in the San Juan Basin.
Once an amendment is in place, residents would have the right to legal redress if any of these rights are violated. For example, a resident experiencing harm from unchecked methane release could force the NM Environment Dept. to increase inspection activities in order to reduce future methane emissions.
Industry much prefers to be allowed to operate without restraints or any regard for public health or safety, and sadly, our state agencies too often allow this misbehavior to persist unchecked, despite having the legal authority to intervene.
The Green Amendment would allow residents to force state government to do its job. But first, we need to get the legislature to do its job and pass HJR4 – SJR6. Find out more about the Green Amendment and what you can do to help pass it at our Zoominar on Thursday. Details below.
Join us on Thursday, Feb 2, 6-7:30 pm for a Green Amendment Zoominar
Join Maya van Rossum and a panel of experts to discuss what the Green Amendment is, why NM needs it, and how it has been implemented in Pennsylvania and NY. There is a great deal of misinformation swirling around the legislature. This Zoominar will orient you to changes in this year’s legislation and help you better advocate with your legislators. Panelists:
- Maya van Rossum, founder of the Green Amendment for the Generations movement, an author of The Green Amendment, a book outlining the case for why we need constitutional protection of our right to clean, air, water and land. For over two years, Maya has been working with environmental activists to pass the Environmental Rights Act, AKA Green Amendment in NM.
- Mark L. Freed, Esq. of Pennsylvania is a partner at Curtin & Heefner LLP with a focus on Public Sector Law and Environmental Law and Litigation. Freed has worked on the responsible and strategic implementation of PA’s Green Amendment in a number of cases and assisted in promoting Green Amendment legislation across the country. He will speak about how the Green Amendment has been implemented in PA.
- Todd D. Ommen of New York is the Managing Attorney at the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, Inc. and a Professor of Law at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law. He closely studied and advocated for the passage of NY’s Green Amendment, which passed in 2021. He now works with a team of environmental advocates and attorneys in NY to ensure the best implementation of NY’s Green Amendment and to educate members of the public and government officials on their new rights and obligations.
- Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, the primary sponsor of this year’s SJR 6 Environmental Rights (Green Amendment) will tell us what we can do to help get this Joint Resolution passed this year. (If her hearing schedule permits!)
Click here to register. You must register to participate.
By popular demand, we are holding our weekly Huddle on Weds, despite having the webinar the next day. We have much to discuss, including updated info on the Green Amendment, the gathering steam opposing MLG’s PRC nomination, and updates on all the bills we are supporting. Huddles are a great way to learn how the legislature functions and how you can weigh in effectively.
You must register to attend. Click here to register.
In solidarity & hope,
Paul & Roxanne
Categories: Climate Justice