Language in House bill criticized

By: 
Larry Limpf

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has issued a statement critical of the Ohio House of Representatives’ version of the 2020-21 budget bill, saying it includes provisions prohibiting local governments from recognizing legal rights of ecosystems.
The provision was included in an extensive list of amendments to the bill while it was before the House Finance Committee.
It states, “…nature or any ecosystem does not have standing to participate or bring an action in a common pleas court; prohibits any person, on behalf of nature or an ecosystem, from bringing, or intervening in, an action in such court; and prohibits any person from bringing an action against a person who is acting on behalf of nature or an ecosystem.”
“The political maneuver is a direct response to the historic Lake Erie Bill of Rights passed by Toledo voters in February,” the CELDF statement says.
“It’s not surprising that the Ohio legislature has the shameful distinction of being the first in the country to specifically name ecosystem rights – trying to quash them rather than taking the lead in recognizing them. This is the same state government that passed House Bill 463 in 2016 in an attempt to stop communities from even advancing rights-based citizen initiatives,” stated Tish O’Dell, community organizer for the CELDF.
The CELDF has provided legal support to Toledoans for Safe Water and assisted with drafting the LEBOR ballot initiative, which grants legal rights to the lake and its ecosystem in the Toledo city charter.
A court case challenging the constitutionality of the LEBOR amendment to the city charter is pending in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The suit argues LEBOR violates federal constitutional rights, including equal protection, freedom of speech and is unenforceable for its vagueness.
Judge Jack Zouhary has denied a motion by Toledoans for Safe Water and the Lake Erie Ecosystem to intervene in the lawsuit brought by Drewes Farm Partnership, Wood County, against the city.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th District has upheld his decision to deny a stay in the case sought by Toledoans for Safe Water while the group appeals the intervention denial.

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