A proposed amendment that would make a clean and healthy environment a constitutional right for New Mexicans is gaining traction among some lawmakers and diverse advocates.
The New Mexico Green Amendment has 23 co-sponsors, compared with four who backed the proposal when it was introduced in the 2021 legislative session but failed to get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It also has drawn the support of 40 organizations, including environmental, faith, Indigenous and community groups. The growing momentum should push it along during the 30-day legislative session in January and increase the chances of passage, said state Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, one of the co-sponsors in the last session.
“More people know about it,” Sedillo Lopez said. “More and more legislators understand it, and know the importance.”
The proposal would embed in the state Constitution a safeguard preventing a future governor from summarily undoing the climate protections and environmental regulations the Lujan Grisham administration is enacting, Sedillo Lopez said, because such actions would infringe on residents’ constitutional rights.
The intention is to avoid a repeat of former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez slashing environmental rules put in place by former Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, Sedillo Lopez said.
Because the 30-day session is focused on the budget, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office must approve all items that the Legislature takes up.
In an email, Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor’s spokeswoman, wrote that the office will assess “all good faith proposals.”
“We will thoroughly review and evaluate potential initiatives in our ongoing conversations with legislative leadership,” she wrote, adding the governor has expressed an interest in climate-focused initiatives, such as clean fuel standards, hydrogen and codifying the state’s emissions-reduction goals.
The co-sponsors of the proposed amendment are Democrats, though one unnamed Republican has expressed interest in supporting it, Sedillo Lopez said.
This time, there will be both House and Senate versions to double the chances of it passing in a 30-day session, Sedillo Lopez said.
She noted its profile was raised by being discussed both in a hearing before the Interim Water & Natural Resources Committee, and in a breakout session during this week’s New Mexico Climate Summit.
If it passes both chambers, the public would vote on it as a ballot measure rather than it going to the governor to sign or veto.
“The Green Amendment is not just another piece of environmental legislation but a movement that protects the people’s rights to clean water, air, and land as well as addressing climate change and providing healthy environments,” state Sen. Harold Pope Jr., D-Albuquerque, said in a statement.
The idea for this proposal came from Green Amendments for the Generations, a national organization that has introduced similar constitutional amendments in several states.
“New Mexico is a leader in advancing meaningful and enforceable constitutional protection for the rights of present and future generations to a clean and healthy environment,” said Maya van Rossum, the group’s founder, in a statement.
“Communities from across the nation are following New Mexico’s lead, using similar language and being inspired by the groundswell of legislative and community support advancing here.”