Updated July 24, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tish O’Dell, Ohio Community Organizer
A pending state ban on Rights of Nature. Anonymous legislators. A lawsuit to enforce the lake’s rights. A new county petition…
COLUMBUS, OH: The Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) made history when 61 percent of Toledo, Ohio, voters approved the groundbreaking law to establish legally enforceable rights for the 11th largest lake on Earth. Gaining national and international acclaim, it has helped accelerate a Rights of Nature movement that has seen other significant developments in Bangladesh, El Salvador, Mexico, New Hampshire, White Earth Band (Minnesota), Yurok tribe (California), and elsewhere in 2019.
However, LEBOR faces significant obstacles and backlash in Ohio. A corporate lawsuit has been filed to overturn the law, which the State of Ohio is supporting, and the law faces a legislative attack by anonymous Ohio legislator(s).
But residents are not backing down. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has been assisting these communities on the ground and in the courtroom.
In the past week:
- June 26: Residents of Williams County, Ohio, which neighbors Toledo, submitted 2,500+ signatures to recognize rights for the Michindoh Aquifer. (Media release: https://celdf.org/
2019/06/media-statement-ohio- group-submits-signatures-to- recognize-rights-for- michindoh-aquifer/)
- June 27: Three Toledo residents filed a pro se lawsuit to enforce the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. (Media release: https://celdf.org/
2019/06/toledo-residents- media-release-citizens- recognize-the-lake-erie-bill- of-rights-as-the-will-of-the- people/)
- June 27: CELDF Ohio organizer Tish O’Dell was invited to meet with an Ohio state representative, regarding LEBOR.
- June 27: The state attorney general, who has attacked LEBOR, admitted “the people of Toledo have made their voices heard.” (News:https://www.toledoblade.
com/local/environment/2019/06/ 27/toledo-activists-file- court-order-protect-lake-erie- bill-rights-valid-lebor-vote/ stories/20190627139)
- June 30: The Ohio legislature delayed a vote on the state budget. In the 3,000+ page document is language to ban Rights of Nature enforcement. The legislators who added the language have not made their identities known.
- The Lake Erie Bill of Rights was taken to federal court by a corporation that argues the local law violates its constitutional “rights” as a corporate “person.” (News: https://www.cleveland.
com/news/2019/02/toledoans- approve-first-lake-erie-bill- of-rights-farmer-sues-over- laws-constitutionality.html)
- CELDF is representing residents from seven communities in federal court, arguing the removal of 14 municipal Rights of Nature laws from local ballots since 2015 constitutes a violation of residents’ civil rights. (Media release: https://celdf.org/
2019/02/news-release-ohio- community-members-file- federal-civil-rights-lawsuit/)
Lake Erie news:
- A thick algae bloom is now creeping into Lake Erie. (News: https://www.usnews.com/
news/best-states/ohio/ articles/2019-06-29/algae- bloom-creeping-into-lake-erie- from-sandusky-bay)
- NOAA scientists predict severe algae blooms on Lake Erie this summer. (Weather.gov: https://www.
- Watchdog groups are concerned about a 2018 Ohio bill that will begin subsidizing hog farms in the Lake Erie watershed (Link: https://docs.wixstatic.
com/ugd/9267e0_ 34c5baab218b4e1e992aaba236282c 1c.pdf)
- As an apparent concession to Toledo residents, Governor Mike DeWine proposed a H2Ohio plan to allocate $900 million dollars to invest in the health of Ohio waterways and Lake Erie. As with other previous plans, the money will go towards future studies and vague solutions.
“By attempting to ban Rights of Nature enforcement, the state has delegitimized itself,” says CELDF’s Ohio organizer, Tish O’Dell. “The people of Toledo have exposed the truth. No one is protecting the Lake.”
“We are celebrating July 4th this week,” O’Dell continued. “This time 243 years ago, ordinary people making up communities across the colonies took action because they lived under a government that represented its own interests and the interests of its corporate allies, ignoring the needs and wants of the people. And so it is today. As those fireworks explode, I hope people think of the people in Toledo, Ohio who are challenging this system. They worked tirelessly and without pay to assert the ideals and beliefs of local self-governance. The people of Toledo, and nearly 200 other communities across the country, have had enough and are challenging this system.”
About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is building a movement for Community Rights and the Rights of Nature to advance democratic, economic, social, and environmental rights – building upward from the grassroots to the state, federal, and international level.