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Coalition discusses right to healthy environment


“A primary reason for seeking a state constitutional amendment on the environment wasthat everyone taking public office must swear an oath to uphold it. It is a solemn obligation,” said Franklin Kury, who was representing the 108th district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives when he authored and championed ratification of what is now known as Article I, Section 27 of the state’s constitution.

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania’s governor and legislators swore that oath, but it’s not apparent in their actions, claim members of the Better Path Coalition whose Article I, Section 27 campaign came to Harrisburg last week for the first of two days of action calling on them to do more to uphold Pennsylvanians’ inalienable right to a healthy environment.

A panel discussion titled Opportunity and Obligation: Article I, Section 27, Pennsylvania’s Green Amendment hosted by the Coalition at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg featured Kury, Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and author of the book “The Green Amendment,” Jordan Yeager, Curtin & Heefner attorney whose legal arguments concerning Art. I, Sec. 27 resulted in the landmark Act 13 ruling that breathed life into the amendment, Anthony Ingraffea, Dwight C. Baum Professor Emeritus, Cornell University, Pouné Saberi, president of the board of directors of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Philadelphia, Ashton Clatterbuck, Sunrise Movement organizer and member of Lancaster Against Pipelines, and Karen Feridun, one of the co-founders of the Better Path Coalition.

“Across the nation communities are being harmed by environmental degradation and are looking for solutions. The passage of green amendments that recognize and protect environmental rights as inalienable human rights in our state constitutions is a big part of the solution. Pennsylvania is only one of two states with this kind of green amendment. ... It is essential that the people of Pennsylvania ensure our elected officials and regulators are fulfilling their constitutional obligations to protect our environmental rights,” van Rossum said.

“Particularly at this moment in history, it is critically important that all public officials recognize that in everything they do, they must respect our constitutional right to a healthy environment. This set of rights – enshrined in Pennsylvania’s Constitution – is just as essential to our existence and freedom as the rest of our constitutional protections, and must be respected and honored at the same level,” said Yeager.

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