Great news! Senate Committees on Ways and Means and Judiciary (WAM/JDC) are holding decision making on our Green Constitutional Amendment bill Thursday at 10:30. Please testify in writing by 10:30 Wednesday 3/2/22 in support! Just check SUPPORT if that’s all you have time for. Or sample text: “The Hawaii Constitution’s Bill of Rights should protect the people’s fundamental right to clean water and air, healthful environment and climate, healthy ecosystems, and beaches.” CLICK HERE to send in testimony – takes one minute!
Here is a draft of HIROC’s testimony with the Climate Protectors Hawaii:
To: The Honorable Donovan Dela Cruz, Chair, The Honorable Gilbert Keith-Agaran, Vice Chair, and Members of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and
The Honorable Karl Rhoads, Chair, The Honorable Jarrett Keohokalole, Vice Chair, and Members of the Senate Committee on Judiciary
From: Climate Protectors Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Reef and Ocean Coalition (by Ted Bohlen)
Re: Hearing SB2962 SD1, PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO ARTICLE I OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF HAWAII TO RECOGNIZE AND PROTECT THE INHERENT AND INALIENABLE RIGHT OF ALL PEOPLE TO CLEAN WATER AND AIR AND HEALTHY ECOSYSTEMS, INCLUDING CLIMATE, AND TO THE PRESERVATION OF THE NATURAL, CULTURAL, SCENIC, AND HEALTHFUL QUALITIES OF THE ENVIRONMENT. Hearing: Thursday, March 3, 2022, 10:30 a.m., by videoconference
Aloha Chairs Dela Cruz and Rhoads, Vice Chairs Keith-Agaran and Keohokalole , and members of the Senate Committees on Ways and Means and Judiciary!
The Climate Protectors Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Reef and Ocean Coalition STRONGLY SUPPORT SB2962SD1! Hawai‘i has very fragile ecosystems, from coral reefs that are suffering from warming oceans, to drinking water polluted with petroleum spilled from underground storage tanks. These fragile ecosystems need protection now more than ever, as environmental threats are growing worse and we are facing an existential climate crisis and rapid declines in aquatic life.
This bill proposes a constitutional amendment to Article I, the Hawai‘i Bill of Rights, to provide more protection of environmental rights. If approved by voters, the Green Constitutional Amendment as drafted in this bill would recognize and protect the right to clean water and air, healthful environment and climate, healthy native ecosystems, and beaches.
In Hawai‘i, environmental protection and this amendment are rooted in the traditions and collective conscience of the people. Environmental protection is deeply honored and valued as part of the culture, beliefs, way of life, and economy. Native Hawaiians have had a traditional and on-going special relationship to the environment and ‘aina.
Because “a healthful environment and climate,” and “healthy ecosystems” are currently not recognized and protected as fundamental, inalienable rights in the Hawaii’s Constitution’s Bill of Rights, protecting these basic human needs sometimes becomes an afterthought in government laws and decision making, and sometimes is not considered at all. The inclusion of this fundamental right in Article I would complement, not supplant, the existing recognized role of government as public trustee of all public natural resources in Article XI, Section 1.
We all need clean water and air, and a healthful environment and climate, to live healthy, long and good quality lives. And so it is just and right that we should ensure our environmental rights are protected as firmly and powerfully as the other fundamental rights we hold dear. We need environmental protection rights raised up to be on par with other fundamental rights such as speech, assembly and religious freedoms.
This Constitutional amendment would provide a new and important tool for protecting the State’s environment. This new amendment may fill a significant gap where there is not yet a law to address a serious environmental condition or threat, until legislative protections can catch up, and strengthen enforceable environmental rights that belong to all the people of Hawai‘i.
The Climate Protectors Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Reef and Ocean Coalition particularly applaud the inclusion of healthful climate and healthy ecosystems in the rights that would be recognized and protected in this amendment, if adopted. The Climate Protectors Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Reef and Ocean Coalition were both formed out of concern for these overlooked (and typically degraded) public interests. The Hawai‘i Reef and Ocean Coalition shares this interest in a healthful climate, which is also critical for corals and other marine life that are dying primarily from warming, more acidic oceans, as well as in “healthy ecosystems.” This Green Constitutional Amendment would be a powerful value-added tool for advancing economic development in ways that also ensures environmental protection. The recognition of fundamental environmental rights can also benefit the State. The amendment could spur State agencies to exercise greater care in decisionmaking to better protect the environment and minimize contested cases and lawsuits. The amendment could also provide a foundation for government efforts to pursue polluters. In Pennsylvania and Montana, two states with Bill of Rights protection for environmental rights, the legal actions filed reportedly have been to address serious issues of public concern – protecting drinking water, supporting government action to secure responsible party clean-up of toxic contamination, and protecting local zoning authority intended to protect local environments.
New York recently became the third state to adopt a Green Constitutional Amendment. In addition to Hawai‘i, at least nine other states are considering similar amendments at this time.
Broad language is characteristic of fundamental Constitutional rights such as speech, assembly and religion. Such rights should be broadly drafted so their vitality will carry well into the future. The terms “clean water and air,” and “healthy ecosystems,” are no less clear than the language in other Hawai‘i Bill of Rights provisions, e.g., the right to “peaceably to assemble”, the “right of the people to privacy,” the right to be free from “excessive bail”; these terms are all open to interpretation. Hawaii’s government officials and courts are well-equipped to define, interpret and apply constitutional environmental rights language using standard principles of legislative interpretation and constitutional law – they have done so successfully with other Article 1 amendments; they are well equipped to do so as needed for environmental rights as well.
The amendment would now read: “The fundamental right of the people, including future generations, to clean water and air, a healthful environment and climate, healthy native ecosystems, and beaches, shall be protected and shall not be infringed.”
The Climate Protectors Hawai‘i and the Hawai‘i Reef and Ocean Coalition ask the Committees to advance this bill to continue discussion of this important right for the people of Hawai‘i!
Climate Protectors Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Reef and Ocean Coalition (by Ted Bohlen)