In emails, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce says undermining Rights of Nature “is essential to what we’re trying to accomplish.”



Tish ODell, Ohio Community Organizer

COLUMBUS, OH: In April 2019, Zachary Frymier, Director of Energy and Environmental Policy for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, reached out to an Ohio state representative with concerns about the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. The groundbreaking local initiative was proposed and adopted by Toledo, Ohio, voters two months earlier, recognizing  residents’ rights to a clean and healthy environment and the rights of Lake Erie to exist, flourish, and evolve, while banning harmful corporate activities as violations of those rights.

“We have some language that we’d request be considered for the budget,” Frymier wrote. Language stating that ecosystems and nature “do not have [legal] standing,” he wrote, “is essential to what we’re trying to accomplish. If we could get that added I would be very grateful.” The language was added to an unrelated biennial budget bill and passed into law by the Ohio General Assembly, and signed by the Governor.

The emails were obtained through Ohio’s Public Records Act, by Ohio community rights organizer Bill Lyons. “People are under the impression that their elected representatives write the laws and the process is transparent. This shows that industry is doing it for them. It’s supposed to be The People’s budget, the representatives say, but this is just a mirage,” says Lyons.

“The fact is it’s not just the Ohio Chamber,” says the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund’s (CELDF) National Organizing Director Ben Price. CELDF helped draft the Lake Erie Bill of Rights and is helping defend it in federal court. “Across the country, front groups for America’s plutocrats are on a mission to privatize government,” says Price. “We don’t have government by the people. Corporations run the show. We’ve got to put an end to that.”

While state and corporate efforts to stop the growing Rights of Nature movement are building across the country, growing numbers of communities are surging ahead with citizen initiatives and state constitutional amendments to recognize those rights and elevate them above corporate “rights.” Communities have adopted more than 30 Rights of Nature laws in the United States since 2006. Internationally, Rights of Nature laws are recognized in New Zealand, Ecuador, Colombia, and other nations.  

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.

Featured Image: Ohio Statehouse (Columbus, Ohio, USA) 1 by James St. John, Flickr Creative Commons

Additional Resources