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New York State's Green Amendment: An Examination of its Scope and Implications

Environmental Land Use & Zoning Municipal

Effective January 1, 2022, New York State enacted a new constitutional amendment, known as the Green Amendment, or the Environmental Rights Amendment. Embedded within the New York State Constitution at Article I, Section 19, the Amendment assures each individual’s right to clean air, clean water, and a healthful environment. This significant constitutional change has drawn much attention, and it’s critical for residents, businesses, and government actors alike to understand what this amendment entails and how it might affect their interactions with the environment.

The Green Amendment asserts a person’s fundamental right to a clean and healthful environment. Unlike other environmental regulations that primarily exist as statutory laws and can be modified, replaced, or withdrawn by the legislature, the Green Amendment elevates environmental rights to the constitutional level. This means these rights are considered fundamental, similar to rights such as freedom of speech and religion.

With the enactment of the Green Amendment, individuals now have a stronger legal framework to safeguard their environmental rights. Should they perceive a governmental action, project, or approval as potentially infringing upon these rights, they can challenge it in court.

For example, consider a scenario where a community believes a new development or government approval may contribute to local air or water pollution. The Green Amendment could provide the community with additional legal grounds to oppose the development or challenge the government approval in court. The specifics of such a legal contest will be determined by case law over time. It is important to work with an experience attorney when asserting such rights or challenging an action, project, or approval based on the Green Amendment.

The Green Amendment holds implications for private citizens, government bodies, and businesses. Government agencies are required to consider these constitutional environmental rights when making decisions potentially impacting the environment.

In the business realm, the amendment may impact planning, development, and operations in significant ways. Businesses involved in sectors such as manufacturing, energy, construction, and waste management might find their government applications subject to increased scrutiny, and so may need to adapt their practices to address environmental impacts, thereby respecting the environmental rights outlined in the Green Amendment.

The Green Amendment has placed environmental rights as a fundamental component of New York State’s constitutional framework. Its introduction alters the legal landscape for individuals, government bodies, and businesses, influencing the way each interacts with the environment.

Understanding the scope and implications of the Green Amendment is crucial for all New Yorkers. It empowers individuals and communities to actively participate in legal processes concerning their environment, and it sets new standards for government bodies and businesses to adhere to in their reviews and operations.

As developments continue to unfold and case law interprets the application of this amendment, we will strive to keep you informed about its practical implications. In the constantly evolving landscape of environmental law, understanding your rights and responsibilities is key.


If you believe that a proposed project or action raises an environmental rights issue, or disproportionately harms you and/or your community, contact an experienced environmental attorney for help.

For questions related to Municipal Law, concerns about Zoning/Land Use problems, or inquireies related to Environmental Law, Environmental Justice, Envrionmental Rights, or other Green Amendment issues, please contact Jacob H. Zoghlin, Esq. or Mindy Zoghlin, Esq. at The Zoghlin Group, PLLC.

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