Offers a relatively brief description of the Environmental Rights Amendment and analysis of how courts have interpreted it over the years.
Article I, Section 27 was agreed to in the 1969-1970 and 1971 session of
the General Assembly, and approved by the state’s voters on May 18, 1971. This article attempts to put in one place all of the bills and other documents that represent its passage through this process. More than 40 years after its adoption, many of these documents are relatively hard to find. We hope that this legislative history will make it easier for the public, the bar, and others to
see what was done, and why.
Argues that, in light of the threats that climate disruption poses to Pennsylvania’s public natural resources, the text of the Environmental Rights Amendment and the principles articulated in those cases, a stable climate (a climate that has not been disrupted by anthropogenic emissions of GHGs) should be considered protected by the rights provided by the ERA, and the public trust and trustee duties it creates.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down a portion of Act 13, the controversial 2012 update of the state's oil and gas law, finding that the law violated Article I Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution (the Environmental Rights Amendment). The majority opinion states: "To describe this case simply as a zoning or agency discretion matter would not capture the essence of the parties’ fundamental dispute regarding Act 13. Rather, at its core, this dispute centers upon an asserted vindication of citizens’ rights to quality of life on their properties and in their hometowns, insofar as Act 13 threatens degradation of air and water, and of natural, scenic, and esthetic values of the environment, with attendant effects on health, safety, and the owners’ continued enjoyment of their private property."
Franklin Kury, author of the Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, describes the genesis of the Environmental Rights Amendment and its important role in protecting Pennsylvania's environment, which before the amendment was degraded by years of industrial pollution.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on June 20, 2017 that Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment is a self-effectuating provision of the Constitution that must be adhered to by all levels of government. The court also held that the ERA creates an automatic right for individuals to seek enforcement against governmental action that harms the environment. This report suggests the four biggest takeaways from the recent decision and poses some questions left unanswered by the court.