At its annual Fall meeting, the Georgia Water Coalition members unanimously adopted this Right to Clean Water (RTCW) policy:
Georgia should adopt a constitutional amendment to the state Bill of Rights establishing that each person has an inherent and inalienable constitutional right to clean and healthy air, soil, and surface and underground water, to support substantial interests, including human health, safety and welfare, native fish and wildlife, conservation of natural resources, outdoor recreation, and aesthetic values throughout the State.
This new policy will be visible online among some other new ones when the 2023 GWC Report appears among the earlier policy documents.
What does this mean? There’s no constitutional amendment yet, no bill, and in Georgia there is no statewide citizen petition process to get an amendment on the ballot.
Meanwhile, this aspiration of the approximately 300 GWC members is on record. That could be useful in negotiating for other bills in the Georgia legislature.
Eventually, somebody will convince some legislators to sponsor an RTCW bill. That bill may include some version of further important points, such as, “The constitutional amendment should be self-executing, define standing and remedies, establish the state as trustee for present and future generations, and ensure local jurisdictions the ability to enact stricter laws or ordinances that the state cannot preempt.”
Then perhaps GWC will support that bill, along with other support. When 2/3 of the Georgia House and Senate pass the bill, it will proceed to a ballot referendum. Historically, the citizens then pass most environmental referenda pass by huge margins.
For more about Rights to Clean Water in Georgia, see Videos: Constitutional Right to Clean Water for Georgia, WWALS Webinar 2022-04-19
There’s also a 69-page white paper explaining how the Committee arrived at this RTCW policy, by researching law, policy, and precedents in each and every state that has or has proposed an RTCW amendment, as well as some other countries.
Thanks to the Committee, including: Chris Bertrand, Satilla Riverkeeper; David Kyler, Center for a Sustainable Coast Damon Mullis, Ogeechee Riverkeeper; John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper; Gordon Rogers, Flint Riverkeeper; Suzanne Welander, author of Canoeing and Kayaking Georgia; and Mike Worley, Georgia Wildlife Federation. And thanks to Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, Coosa River Basin Initiative (CRBI), for facilitating the policy adoption process.
Floridians, please sign the petition to get RTCW on the Florida ballot in 2024. 223,000 signatures are needed by March 1, 2023, for Florida Supreme Court review. You can help meet that goal, and the one after that.
For more about RTCW in Georgia and Florida, see https://wwals.net/issues/right-to-clean-water/
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®