Aberdeen council takes stand for state environmental rights

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ABERDEEN – In a show of support for environmental accountability, members of the Township Council in Aberdeen Township have passed a resolution backing a Green Amendment to the state constitution.

Council members took the action during a meeting on May 7.

The proposed amendment states that every person has a constitutional right to a clean environment, including the right to clean air, pure water and healthy habitats.

The amendment, if it becomes law, would require New Jersey to preserve public natural resources and to prevent individuals from destroying or damaging public natural resources, according to the council.

The right of residents to clean water, clean air and a healthy environment are not given any protection in the state constitution, according to the council.

The governing body said there are still thousands of sites where the soil needs to be cleaned up and from which contaminants continue to migrate into and pollute ground water; brownfields that need to be put to productive use; public drinking water supplies and school water systems that need to be rid of lead, solvents and chemicals; and places where the air is still unhealthy, especially when ozone peaks in the summer heat.

The American Lung Association noted that 11 of New Jersey’s 21 counties received an “F” rating from the group when comparing smog levels to health-based air quality standards, according to the council.

The governing body said the biggest threat to New Jersey’s environment is climate change, which impacts the Jersey shore and may result in the eventual loss of the state’s barrier islands, habitat and wetlands, and detrimental changes to coastal living.

A bill has been introduced in the state Senate, co-sponsored by senators Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer and Middlesex) and Christopher Bateman (R-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset), which proposes the Green Amendment.

The proposed amendment states that every person has a right to a clean and healthy environment … and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic qualities of the environment. The state will not infringe upon these rights, by action or inaction; and that New Jersey’s public natural resources … are the common property of all the people, including present and future generations. The state will serve as a trustee of these resources and will conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all people.

The senators’ bill awaits action in the state Legislature and could eventually be subject to a vote by residents as a ballot question.