BUFFALO, N.Y. — Election Day is less than three weeks away. Thursday, advocates and elected leaders from Western New York came together to rally in support of Proposal 2, an environmental rights amendment to the state's constitution. 

"These 15 words cost us virtually nothing, but will ensure the health of our families and our environment for generations to come," Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka said.

What You Need To Know

  • Proposal 2 on the ballot, if passed, would guarantee clean air, clean water and a healthful environment for New Yorkers

  • There are only two states in the U.S. that have such an amendment in their constitutions

  • New Yorkers will vote on the proposal on Nov. 2, 2021

Those 15 words make up what some call a 'Green Amendment' to New York's constitution. If passed, the amendment, also known as Proposal 2 on the ballot, would guarantee clean air, clean water and a healthful environment for New Yorkers.

"Polluters face very little consequences for their actions,” Sean Ryan, (D) Senate - Erie County said. “But this amendment would signal to the Tonawanda Cokes, to the Bethlehem Steels, to the Hooker Chemicals, that Western New York is not a dumping ground. New York state is not a dumping ground. And they need to consider the health of the community as well as considering their healthy bottom line.”

Government law experts says those who have expressed concern about Proposal 2 are mainly from local government. They explain those concerns.

"The fear is the right to sue,” Albany Law School Government Law Center Legal Director Richard Rifkin said. “In other words, it now gives everyone in the state the right to bring lawsuit using this constitutional provision. How expansive this will be, how often it will be used, nobody knows."

Laura Rabinow worked with Center for Law & Policy Solutions research interns on a report about two states, Pennsylvania and Montana, that implemented green amendments. She says concerns that have been voiced in New York have largely mirrored those in other states.

"In addition to concerns of cost and litigiousness, there was some disagreement in particular that was used and degree in specificity," Rockefeller Institute Deputy Director of Research Laura Rabinow said.

Rifkin says if it passes, this constitutional amendment could give the legislature more power, but really falls in the hands of the court system. He says Pennsylvania's green amendment has not been cited often.

"However, if we have a very different experience and it becomes the centerpiece of discussion, debate, what it requires, then obviously it will become very important in our history," Rifkin said. 

New Yorkers will have the opportunity to vote on Proposal 2, as well as on other issues, on Nov. 2.