Our environment must be protected for future generations, and currently our federal government is rolling back policies that protect us against climate change and global warming. First, the President pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change mitigation. Further, cuts are being made left and right to funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, which is tasked with protecting human and environmental health. This is why it is imperative; we pass legislation to keep our environment clean and healthy for every New Yorker.
Many communities in New York have been grappling with toxic pollution and contamination of their air and water. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 4.2 million deaths every year as the result of exposure to outdoor air pollution, and 91 percent of the world’s population lives in places where the air quality exceeds WHO’s guideline limits. We’ve seen more recently, the city of Newburgh face a drinking water crisis, after the toxic chemical PFOS was found in it’s primary reservoir, Lake Washington.
Further, we see no signs of climate change stopping. We know natural disasters like hurricanes, flooding and droughts are happening more often and are exasperated by climate change. According to the World Resources Institute, the number of people impacted by flooding each year could triple from 21 million to 54 million by 2030. And a record level of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have been found in the atmosphere and continue to rise, according to the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization’s 2017 report.
More than ever, New Yorkers must have the right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment. These are simple rights, conspicuously left out of our State’s Constitution. This is why I sponsor legislation (S.2072), which would amend our constitution and better protect our residents. This Constitutional Amendment will encourage sound green decision-making and help prevent actions that could harm our air, water, and environment. It would also support citizen suits to enforce current state and federal laws aimed at protecting our environment.
Several states, including Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Montana have constitutional protections in place to ensure access to clean air and water, and New York should follow suit. We cannot continue to take our environment for granted. It is time to reduce our carbon footprint and invest in clean renewable energy so New York paves the way toward a clean and healthy environment for all its residents.