MACo Highlights Concerns with Environmental Amendment

On February 23, 2022, Associate Policy Director Dominic Butchko testified before the House Environment and Transportation Committee in opposition to HB 596 – Constitutional Amendment – Environmental Rights. This bill would propose an amendment to the Constitution of Maryland to establish that every person has the fundamental and inalienable right to a healthful and sustainable environment. MACo fears that, as written, this amendment would open local governments up to an onslaught of potential litigation when providing many basic services.

From the MACo testimony

This language is both vague and overbroad. It could be argued that many basic, essential services provided by a local government could unreasonably degrade natural resources, including: transportation, water and sewer services, emergency management, and planning and zoning. There are already adequate legal remedies available to address valid environmental concerns, without creating a new ill-defined, legally enforceable right. Enshrining such indeterminate entitlements into the state constitution invites myriad unintended consequences and unanticipated costs.

Longstanding and well-established environmental standards could by upended by an aberrant court decision, causing major policy changes and costs for local governments. Furthermore, the bill would empower any person to enforce or intervene in any case involving a right created by the bill, against any public party. This upsets Maryland’s own well considered standing requirements that have been developed over decades by the Maryland General Assembly and the Judiciary.

MACo will be testifying on the bill’s crossfile, SB 783, on March 9, 2022.

More on MACo’s Advocacy:

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2022 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.
Learn more about MACo’s 2022 Legislative Initiatives.
Read more General Assembly News on MACo’s Conduit Street blog.