House Bill 220 is an amendment to the Delaware Constitution that would guarantee a clean environment to every person in the state and says in part:
"The people of Delaware have an inherent, indefeasible, inalienable right to a clean and healthy environment; including water, air, soil, flora, fauna, ecosystems, and climate; and preservation of natural, cultural, scenic, and healthful qualities of the environment. The state shall not infringe upon these rights by action or inaction."
Sounds wonderful, like the "Garden of Eden" with no people. The absolutist character of the language defines a perfection that cannot be met, a "utopian ideal" conjured up for what purpose? To bring all economic development to a halt?
Think about it. How clean is clean? Who determines that? Are these rights' costs considered?
This amendment openly invites lawsuits for anyone over just about every one of life's actions. It removes legislative and regulatory authority to establish reasonable standards, giving that authority to judges not equipped to make such decisions.
Every imaginable economic development, whether residential, industrial, transportation, infrastructure, or other, would be in violation of this amendment. Consider just a few scenarios, then create your own:
- Delaware currently meets all national air quality standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency based on the national Clean Air Act. The standards are developed using scientific studies of health impacts with a margin of safety. However, because of natural ambient emissions, the standards are not set at zero. Someone could sue the state to spend an infinite amount of money to reach an impossible zero emissions level. Certainly, the combustion of any fuels, including wood, charcoal, ethanol, biofuels, and fossil fuels, could not be allowed.
- Drinking water also has federal standards, and most people are on public water systems. Again the water still contains some minerals, organics, and fluoride is added. Public water lines aren't run in all rural areas. Someone could sue for no fluoride or zero minerals that are virtually impossible to meet. Some rural homeowners could sue to have central water access no matter the cost.
- Delaware has achieved very low economic growth over the past 15 years. This amendment would move it to negative growth, loss of jobs, and population. Every new housing, commercial, and industrial development has someone objecting to it. Every project could be sued and stopped based on this amendment. The only thing "green" about this amendment is the money going to lawyers.
House Bill 220 is also known as The Green Amendment; if Delaware legislators pass it, Delawareans could see an absolute gridlock or costs go up so high that no one could afford their utility or tax bills.
The Green Amendment is not a good or practical idea, though the intent may be well-meaning.