This fall, New Yorkers will be asked to vote on whether the New York State Constitution should be amended to recognize a “a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.” I suspect that, for many, this will cause a bit of head scratching. You mean we don’t already have a right clean air and water?
No, New Yorkers do not presently have a right to clean air and water. There are many laws aimed at protecting human health and the environment, including laws designed to ensure that our drinking water is safe to drink and that our air is safe to breathe. But, as any resident of Hoosick Falls can tell you, if, for some reason, those laws don’t apply or aren’t being implemented effectively, citizens may have little recourse.