Time for a Green Amendment for our state? by Iris Antman and David Kipnis

On February 9, 2021 Representative Lekanoff, a member of the Tlingit tribe and a representative from Washington’s 40th District, first introduced a Green Amendment to the Washington state constitution in order to secure for all Washingtonians now and for generations to come constitutional recognition and protection of their inalienable rights to pure water, clean air, a stable climate and healthy environments. In so doing, WA joined a national movement spearheaded by Maya van Rossum, an environmental attorney and activist and a Delaware Riverkeeper for the past 30 thirty years, who founded the organization Green Amendments for the Generations. 

A Green Amendment would be added to the bill of rights section of the state constitution, alongside other constitutionally guaranteed rights such as due process and freedom of speech. In 2021, Representative Lekanoff introduced the amendment to the House Environment & Energy Committee and in the 2022 Legislative session it received a well attended hearing but failed to make it out of committee. 

Green Amendments currently exist in the state constitutions of Pennsylvania, Montana and since 2021 in New York. Washington has joined Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia in pushing for a green  amendment. Van Rossum’s goal is to have self-executing, environmental rights amendments in the Bill of Rights section of every state constitution across the U.S. and ultimately at the federal level.

Why/how will a Green Amendment help? Establishing an enforceable environmental right will drive better government decision making at all levels of government and will  prevent situations or conditions in which land becomes too contaminated, water becomes too polluted, and air too dirty to support healthy lives, including a healthy economy. 

A Seattle work group headed by David Kipnis joined forces with Rep. Lekanoff in late 2021 and continues this year to strategize (along with van Rossum’s help) on how to move the Green Amendment forward in Washington for the 2023 Legislative session. 

If you’re intrigued and interested in finding out more and/or joining the effort to work for the Washington Green Amendment please contact David Kipnis at dakipnis@gmail.com.

ritten by: Iris Antman and David Kipnis