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Multi-Prong Attack by State of Ohio Against Rights of Nature

May 28, 2019

Attorney General files complaint against the Lake Erie Bill of Rights protecting polluters


CONTACT: CELDF Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer 440-552-6774

COLUMBUS, OH: On Friday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a legal complaint to have the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) overturned.

The AG’s filing comes less than two weeks after the Ohio House of Representatives adopted its 2020-2021 budget with provisions that prohibit anyone, including local governments, from enforcing recognized legal rights for ecosystems. Friday’s court filing is the state’s intervention in a lawsuit filed by the agribusiness industry against LEBOR, Drewes Farm Partnership v. City of Toledo. The Ohio Farm Bureau is backing the lawsuit.

In Friday’s complaint, the State of Ohio “requests the court issue a permanent injunction” to stop the City of Toledo, any person, or “fictitious entity…from enforcing any provisions of [the] Charter Amendment.”

In defending its title as “proprietor in trust to the waters of Lake Erie,” the state argues LEBOR must be invalidated because it “deprives” fictitious corporate “persons” of the “privilege of engaging in lawful operations.” This includes, according to the state, “sludge management permits and permits for the discharge of sewage, industrial waste, or other wastes.” The state argues that denying industries’ permission to pollute, which the state controls, would be a violation of the constitutional rights of fictitious corporate “persons” under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. As such, the state claims it is beyond the power of local voters to protect their own rights or the lake.

“The lake is dying and the AG says only the state of Ohio has the power to protect it. But it’s not. A generation has passed during which the Ohio legislature and governors have stood by enabling a corrupt system of permitting and willfully ignoring scientific data that has caused water quality and the Lake’s condition to worsen to crisis levels. The people have had enough. The state claims to be the sole trustee of Lake Erie, but they have forfeited that trust by their inaction. The lake and the people have suffered direct harm due to the state’s failure to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people and the lake. Our Constitution states that the people can step in when their government fails them,” said Tish O’Dell, CELDF Ohio Organizer.

Markie Miller of Toledoans for Safe Water added, “Because of the state’s failure to act on behalf of the people and Lake Erie, we have suffered without water and we fear the next contamination or algae bloom. We know Lake Erie is dying, so this winter, WE did what the state would not – we took action. We asserted our inalienable democratic right to pass a law that will actually protect the Lake and our community. Now, ‘our’ government claims the people’s law is invalid and our judiciary is keeping us out of the judicial process completely. We will not allow this government to sabotage our basic rights, the rights of the Lake, and – most importantly – the future of our children.”

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is representing Toledoans as they fight to defend their Lake Erie Bill of Rights.

About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature.



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