What’s Happening Now?!?!!!
While only having gone into affect January 1, of 2022, the New York Green Amendment is already helping communities in powerful ways.
As with all Green Amendments, New York’s Article 1 Section 19 is changing the power dynamic in the state when it comes to the environment and is giving meaningful power back to the people. When we have a constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment we have a pathway to protect ourselves from bad laws and government decisions that sacrifice our communities and environment for political or profit gain, simple ignorance, or the perpetual drive for political dominance. As important, if not moreso, we have a tool that we can use to encourage and secure protective government decisions in the first place, thereby securing needed protections and avoiding the need for litigation.
New York is one of only 3 states where Green Amendments exist – Pennsylvania, Montana and New York. In all three states, communities are using their constitutional rights to fight for, and WIN, critical environmental protections. You can read about those efforts here. Every victory sets important precedent and becomes powerful inspiration for others seeking and/or enforcing their own Green Amendment rights.
What’s happening in New York now that Article 1 Section 19 – aka the New York Green Amendment – has been passed?
Fresh Air For The Eastside
In Monroe and Wayne Counties, members of a group called Fresh Air for the Eastside, Inc. (“FAFE”)—a not-for-profit organization – have been fighting to defend their environment for residents living near the High Acres Landfill. For years they had sought government action to help protect them from pollution emanating from the site, threatening their health and safety, and contributing greenhouse gas emissions harmful to our climate.
High Acres Landfill (“Landfill”), owned and operated by Waste Managmeent New York, is the repository of garbage from New York City. The Landfill causes fugitive greenhouse gas emissions, including emissions laced with hazardous substances, and the release of persistent and noxious odors of garbage and landfill gas that are harmful to neighboring residents, the environment and the climate. For years the community has sought government action to address the dangerous emissions from the site, and for years they have been ignored.
Once the NY Green Amendment was passed, FAFE had a new tool to seek meaningful government action and protection – a constitutional right to clean water and air, and a healthful environment. FAFE has used this new tool to legally challenge the government actions and decisions with regards to the landfill that are haviong severe consequences for their health, safety and environment. So far the legal decisions have sided with the community and their right to a clean and healthful environment.
- You can read all about the case and the most recent FAFE legal victory here.
Lights Out Norlite
In Albany County, upstate New York, residents organized under the moniker Lights Out Norlite, have been fighting to protect themselves from polluting air emissions released by Norlite. Norlite is an industrial facility that burns hazardous waste, including waste fuels and used heating oils. Releases from Norlite include crystalline silica and dangerous levels of particulate matter. Inhalation of crystalline silica can cause irreversible lung damage, and can lead to lung disease, COPD, kidney disease, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular impairment, and lung cancer. Exposure to small particulate matter of the kind released from Norlite can cause severe adverse health consequences, including cardiac disorders, exacerbating asthma, causing bronchitis, cerebrovascular incidents, increased risk of diabetes, and increased rate of mortality for those exposed. In addition, Norlite is responsible for noxious odors, fumes, smoke, noise and vibrations that have harmed neighboring residents and communities.
Norlite is known by the state to repeatedly violate air emission limits that apply to their facility and operations. Despite these known and repeated violations, the state has allowed the facility to continue to operate, and failed to take meaningful legal or enforcement action to protect the environment and the environmental rights of impacted neighbors. Several of the impacted neighborhoods around the plant have been identified as potential environmental justice areas and include a high proportion of minority and/or low income residents. In response, with their Green Amendment rights now in hand, residents have brought legal action against the facility, but also against the state for its failure to protect the constitutional rights of impacted community members to clean water and air and a healthful environment.
- The Intercept news outlet has published a great article outlining the story.
- To learn more about, & support, the community’s efforts, their website has a wealth of information and can be found at: https://lightsoutnorlite.org