Toledo Passes Lake Erie Bill of Rights – Choppy Waters Ahead

In a February 26, 2019 special election,Toledo’s voters passed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (the LEBOR). The LEBOR is an amendment to the City of Toledo’s Charter that creates a new cause of action for the violation of the right of Lake Erie and its watershed to “exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.”

The LEBOR initiative is similar to many other community rights proposals that seek to establish rights for natural resources that citizens can protect through legal action.

The corporations or entities that could be impacted by the LEBOR’s enactment range far and wide. Generally, companies that have an Ohio EPA issued water discharge permit authorizing them to discharge into surface waters within the Lake Erie watershed could be affected.

On February 27th, Drewes Farm Partnership v. City of Toledo was filed in federal court in Toledo, asserting many challenges to the LEBOR, including the argument that the LEBOR exceeds Toledo’s limited authority to pass legislation and is in violation of state and federal preemption laws. The Drewes case seeks a preliminary injunction to stop the LEBOR going into effect before its defects are litigated.

These, and other legal challenges, are anticipated in the near future, with industry groups, agricultural interest groups, and businesses all interested in challenging the LEBOR for its overreach and broad declarations.

More information can be found in this memorandum from OMA environmental counsel Bricker & Eckler LLP. 2/28/2019