Twenty-two U.S. states and nearly every country that has adopted or substantially revised its constitution in the last half century have constitutional provisions that address environmental protection. Maryland is not one of these states. Students in Professor Robert Percival’s Global Environmental Law Seminar prepared a comprehensive study of the question whether Maryland should add an environmental provision to its state constitution.
Second-year environmental law students Bryan Smith and Robin Cleland, from the seminar, discussed the findings of their 57-page report with a multi-denominational group of religious leaders gathered for “Awake and Arise: Congregations Restoring Creation,” a conference sponsored by the Ecumenical Leaders Group and the Central Maryland Ecumenical Council. The October 22 event was held at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.), The students found that there are two major types of environmental provisions in constitutions: policy directives, which often are designed to protect natural resources, and environmental rights provisions. While many constitutional provisions have been deemed primarily symbolic and non self-executing, others have had a significant aspect on environmental protection.
One recent example is the 2013 decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania holding that a statute barring local governments from restricting hydraulic fracturing violated an environmental rights provision in the state constitution.
Although the students’ report does not make a formal recommendation, it lays out several options that should be considered in starting a conversation over a possible Maryland amendment.
The students’ report will be the focus of the Environmental Law Program’s annual Ward/Kershaw Symposium at 4:30pm on Friday November 20. The symposium will be held in the law school’s Ceremonial Moot Courtroom. Following the symposium, Professor James May of Widener University’s Delaware School of Law, will deliver the annual Fedder Lecture on “Constitutions and the Environment.”