Lake Erie Bill of Rights backers plan to fight court ruling against it

Published: Mar. 2, 2020 at 10:15 PM EST
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For Markie Miller and those behind the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, word of its defeat is tough.

"It's disappointing, it's frustrating," Miller, a member of Toledoans for Safe Water, said.

In an eight-page ruling, a federal judge recently ruled the law null and void, citing vagueness and overreach of power. For Miller, the decision shows what she calls a flaw in the system.

"Laws are really designed in a way to protect the polluter," Miller said. "They're designed in a way to say, 'Here's what's allowed, here's what's OK.'"

Last February, Wood County-based Drewes Farms brought a lawsuit against the bill, challenging its authority. The state later joined in. It came just one day after Toledo voters approved the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, or LEBOR, in a special election.

Now one year later, the bill is dead in the water and the city is set to pay no more than $75,000 in legal fees for defending the lake.

"We understand the ongoing frustration people have with state and federal officials who will not act to protect the lake in a meaningful way," City of Toledo law director Dale Emch said. "Nonetheless, we respect the court's decision and will examine our options going forward."

Meanwhile, Miller said the conversation around the bill needs to continue.

"We can't just say, 'Oh, we're done. The court said this,'" Miller said. "The court is going to be the last thing to change."

Since voters gave LEBOR their support, Miller said she wants to see Toledo challenge the ruling and city leaders set clear rules when it comes to decisions that involve Lake Erie.

"Keep this conversation going," Miller said. "Make decisions that do reflect well on your constituents."

In the meantime, Miller says she plans to fight back all in an effort to keep a clean lake.

"We're only going to get change when we have confrontation between what is law and where we want law to go," Miller said.