PennFuture’s “Environmental Rights Amendment” Forum

Last night, September 14th, I had the pleasure of attending PennFuture’s “Environmental Rights Amendment” Forum along with one of my peers, Austin Gentel. The event was dedicated to understanding the history, meaning, and impact of Pennsylvania Constitution’s Article I, Section 27, commonly known as the “Environmental Rights Amendment” (ERA), which states: 

“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”

The ERA has struggled to maintain support from the courts over the past decades, but on June 20, 2017, all of that changed in a landmark environmental decision. The Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Fund (PEDF), a nonprofit organization, challenged the constitutionality of a series of state laws that changed how revenue from the lease of oil and gas rights on public lands was being used. A majority of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court justices upheld a broad interpretation of the ERA, agreeing that holding the funds derived from the lease of oil and gas rights on public lands must remain a part of the trust and be used to further the public’s right to “clean air, pure water and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and esthetic values of the environment.”

(Pictured above: DVU Public Policy students, Austin Gentel (left) and Marian Rubin (right) pose with the Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania’s Constitution, commonly known as “The Environmental Rights Amendment”)

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