Policy Update

Green Amendments in 2023: States Continue Efforts to Make a Healthy Environment a Legal Right

March 27, 2023



NCEL Point of Contact

Kate Burgess
Conservation Program Manager



Communities across the United States are facing worsening and intersecting environmental threats. As a result, more states are expanding efforts in 2023 to make a healthy environment a constitutional right. Currently, three states – Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania – have established constitutional rights to a healthy environment via Green Amendments, but at least nine more states are considering bills in 2023.   

  • Defined: A Green Amendment is an amendment to a state constitution’s bill of rights that guarantees its citizens the inalienable right to clean air, clean water, and a healthy environment. 

Why Green Amendments Matter

In the United States millions of people lack access to safe water, and nearly everyone across the globe is regularly exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution. By establishing a healthy environment as a basic civil liberty, Green Amendments provide a backstop to ensure government authorities are protecting environmental health. Green Amendments also help to advance environmental justice by granting communities overburdened by pollution the legal standing to insist that the government prevent actions that infringe upon their right to clean water, clean air, and a healthy environment.

The 2023 State of Play – Which States Are Working Towards a Green Amendment? 

As of March 2023, at least nine states have introduced Green Amendment legislation. While all bills guarantee the right to a healthy environment, the scope and specific language varies state to state. 

At least nine states (in blue) are considering legislation in 2023 to establish a Green Amendment. Learn more about these bills here.


Almost all nine states’ proposed Green Amendment language includes the right to clean air and water, but many are also proposing to include the right to a healthy and/or stable climate, such as Hawaii (S.B.635/H.B.444), Nevada (A.J.R3), and New Mexico (H.J.R.4/S.J.R.6). 


More states are also including explicit language to ensure the right to a healthy environment is enforced equitably – regardless of race, income, or geography – as is the case in the legislation from Connecticut (H.J.37), Nevada (A.J.R3), New Mexico (H.J.R.4/S.J.R.6), and Texas (H.J.R119). 

Environmental Values 

Other states’ proposed Green Amendment language – such as Maine (L.D.928), Tennessee (H.J.R.50), and West Virginia (H.J.R.9) –  include the right to preserve the natural environment for its historic, cultural, or scenic values.

Stay Informed on Green Amendments With NCEL

Stay up to date on the status and trends of Green Amendment policies across the country this year with NCEL’s Bill Tracking Map