Budget Halts Enforcement of Lake Erie Bill of Rights

In early 2019, Toledo’s voters passed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) — an amendment to the city charter that declares Lake Erie and its watershed have enforceable legal rights to “exist, flourish and naturally evolve.” It prohibits any corporation (defined to include any business) or government from violating these rights, and it allows the city or any resident of the city to sue in state court to enforce these rights and prohibition.

The LEBOR initiative is similar to other community proposals seeking to establish legally enforceable rights for natural resources. Many corporations or entities could be impacted by the LEBOR’s enactment — especially businesses that have an Ohio EPA-issued water discharge permit authorizing them to conduct operations within the Lake Erie watershed.

The OMA was able to help secure an amendment in the recently enacted state budget to declare that “nature or any ecosystem does not have standing to participate or bring an action in any court.” The amendment also prohibits any person on behalf of nature or an ecosystem from bringing an action in court. The inclusion of this language in the final budget is a big win, especially for any permit-holding manufacturer in the Lake Erie basin. 8/1/2019