Regarding the Maryland Environmental Human Rights Amendment
(As of November, 2021)
Is the language of this amendment aspirational (“Hortatory”), encouraging the legislature, administration, and judges to keep these rights in mind, but not providing an avenue for private action? Or is it “self-executing” meaning that it does allow individuals to sue private parties or the state to enforce the right.
Our (Maryland) amendment is to be self-executing – as fundamental and judiciable as all other fundamental constitutional rights. It will allow people (as well as subdivisions of government) to sue if their rights are being violated.
There is a committee of lawyers and others helping craft the amendment along with the lawyer/Delegate sponsor. On the committee are the world’s leading expert on constitutional environmental law (see bio below) along with a past EPA lawyer and EPA environmental justice division director. (you can find them on that link above). They are also getting input from the AG’s office regarding the language.
Are there specific examples of a community using this amendment to fight existing issues in their communities? For example: could a community use the amendment to remove an incinerator that had been in their neighborhood for years prior and harming their health, or if environmental infringements existed prior to the amendment’s passing would be untouchable?
First, we cannot predict how courts will decide any one case. But yes, the amendment would give the community – and individuals in it – the right to bring the permitting government entity (that is, the government agency that is giving license to and overseeing the incinerator’s operations) to court to fight the pollution that the incinerator is causing. The government could then be forced by the court (in order to be in compliance with the amendment) to place such
restrictions on the incinerator to reduce or eliminate the polluting, that the incinerator might in fact decide to close instead of complying.
Furthermore, a story from MDEHR website gives more in depth examples of how this bill has been used to combat pollution such as this in the past, which may give greater insight on the question asked. Additionally, the Stories section of the MDEHR website has some other really neat examples and current events related to this bill that may help give a more robust view of this amendment as it exists in the real world.
Do you have a list of organizations who have endorsed the bill?
We had over 70 organizations sign up with us last year. Below is a short list. This year, we are just getting underway to sign up organizations. The United Methodist Council, the Universalist Unitarians are endorsing, the Episcopal diocese will hopefully endorse the Campaign next week, as well as several chapters of the NAACP – and lots more to come.
In addition, College Park City Council and Takoma Park City Council voted to endorse us. Furthermore, we are working with two farmers groups, recreational hunters, and reaching out to watermen and developers.
Isn’t the Amendment against development?
This amendment is not against development. We all need development – we all need homes and roads and places to eat and shop affordably and equitably. This bill is against bad development! This type of amendment is helping developers in other states create better buildings and neighborhoods, more sustainable, more economic to run and manage, and more attractive to would-be renters or buyers.
- Assateague Coastal Trust
- Blue Water Baltimore
- Central Maryland Ecumenical Council
- Chesapeake Climate Action Network
- Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
- Climate Law and Policy Project
- Defensores de le Cuenca
- Earth Works Action
- Frederick Friends Meeting
- Green Grace (Episcopal Diocese of Maryland)
- Green Towson Alliance
- Interfaith Power and Light
- Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake
- Maryland Children’s Environmental Health Coalition
- Maryland Legislative Coalition
- Rachel Carson Council
- Sunrise Howard County
- Sierra Club
- Unitarian Universalists Legislative Ministry of MD
- Waterkeepers Chesapeake
- MSCAC (Maryland Students Climate Action Committee – project of MaryPIRG)