Nearly 50 years ago, a young legislator named Franklin Kury wanted to guarantee Pennsylvanians the right to clean air and water. Working with other environmental advocates, he got Article 1, Section 27 amended to the state constitution in 1971:
The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.
Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come.
As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.
For decades, the amendment was largely ignored.
But things are changing. As fracking transformed Pennsylvania’s rural landscapes, it’s unexpectedly led to a shift in the legal landscape, too. Two recent state Supreme Court decisions dealing with natural gas drilling are breathing new life into the amendment.