Washington Law Review


Devra R. Cohen


Pollution poses an ongoing threat to the health and welfare of the citizens of Washington State. Air pollution costs Washington approximately $190 million per year, ocean acidification is contributing to oyster die-offs, and approximately 677,000 acres of land are affected by area-wide soil contamination. Although Washington has aspirational environmental legislation and a narrowly defined duty under article XVII of the Washington State Constitution to protect navigable waters, their shores and tidelands, the State needs to do more if its citizens—present and future—are going to enjoy a healthy environment. Amending the Washington State Constitution to include an extended public trust doctrine that provides broad environmental protection and incorporates an affirmative right to a healthy environment will add a layer of environmental protection and provide the impetus for politically difficult environmental action. Amending the State Constitution to include a positive right to a healthy environment would not be a radical departure from current policy, and is necessary to safeguard the environment for present and future generations.

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