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Debate Over Environmental Rights and State Constitutional Convention (New York Law Journal)

New York Law Journal, October 25, 2017

Debate Over Environmental Rights and State Constitutional Convention

“Both the New York state and New York City bar associations have come out in favor of a Constitutional Convention. Both would leave the Forever Wild clause untouched. However, they come to opposite positions on an environmental rights provision….the City Bar report (written by a task force chaired by Judge Michael Sonberg and Margaret Dale) opposed creation of an environmental right, concluding that it ‘would have the effect of transferring much decision-making power over environmental matters from the legislative and executive branches to the judiciary, and would empower judges to make decisions about the appropriate levels of pollution and other forms of environmental degradation.’ It added that ‘giving judges the authority to determine appropriate levels of pollution or other kinds of environmental impacts would create uncertainty as to whether compliance with a permit issued by a government agency would satisfy all applicable requirements, or whether additional restrictions could be imposed before or during construction, or even after operations have begun. The common law doctrines of nuisance and trespass are still available to the courts to remedy egregious impacts, and additional constitutional authority seems neither necessary nor wise.’”

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