Assembly Passes Legislation to Amend N.Y. Constitution's Bill of Rights to Include a Right to Clean Air and Water

Proposal Now Moves to Ballot to be Approved by Voters

Speaker Carl Heastie and Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Steve Englebright today announced that the Assembly has passed legislation that would allow New Yorkers to vote to amend the New York State Constitution’s Bill of Rights to include a right to clean air and water and a healthful environment during the next general election (A.1368, Englebright).

“The Assembly Majority has fought tirelessly to ensure that our state protects our precious natural resources and our people,” said Speaker Heastie. “Everyone deserves access to clean drinking water and clean air. This constitutional amendment gets us one step closer to guaranteeing that right to every New Yorker.”

“For years, my colleagues and I in the Assembly Majority have fought to protect our planet for generations to come. Clean water, clean air and a healthful environment should be fundamental rights for every New Yorker,” said Assemblymember Englebright. “With the passage of this constitutional amendment by both houses of the Legislature, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to decide by a vote whether to enshrine these protections in the New York State constitution.”

Recent water contamination incidents and ongoing concerns about air quality have highlighted the importance of clean drinking water and air as well as the need for additional protections. Several other states have constitutional protections in place to ensure access to clean air and water, including Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Montana.

In order to amend the New York State Constitution, the proposal must be reviewed by the attorney general and passed by both houses of the Legislature in two different two-year legislative sessions. Upon a second passage, the proposed amendment will be placed before New Yorkers in a statewide voter referendum. Today’s proposed amendment was first passed by the Legislature in 2019 and must now be approved by voters.