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Lake Erie gets a Bill of Rights; Call for help on E15 debacle

As noted in this blog last Tuesday, voters in Toledo, Ohio, were at the polls deciding on a proposed citizen-led Lake Erie Bill of Rights. Meanwhile, the call is out to become engaged in the likely year-around expansion of E15.

By a margin of 61-39, Toledo voters voiced consensus: Lake Erie, the world’s 11th largest lake and one that provides drinking water to 12 million U.S. and Canadian citizens, not to mention immense recreational boating and fishing activities, deserves to have its own bill of rights. Accordingly, the Toledo city charter is to be amended declaring Lake Erie has a right to exist and carry a smaller environmental burden.

As predicted, lawyers started tripping over each other to file a legal challenge. The day after the vote, the first lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the Bill of Rights was filed in U.S. District Court. Attorneys representing Drewes Farms Partnership of Custar, Ohio, contend the successful ballot initiative should be thrown out on grounds it’s “unconstitutional and unlawful.”

The contentious fight to get Lake Erie a Bill of Rights has triggered strong emotions from both sides of the issue. And, both the supporters and detractors generally agree the debate over how much protection must be afforded the lake is hardly over. “No matter what happens, we’re feeling very proud of what we’ve done,” Markie Miller, a “Toledoans for Safe Water” organizer, the group behind the local campaign, told Toledo Blade.

Miller said supporters are “so tired of the inaction we’ve seen.” They claim regulatory agencies have failed to do their jobs for a long time. Her group formed after Toledo’s high-profile 2014 water crisis that resulted from the now-annual green-slime algae blooms that appear each summer in the lake.

Critics of the initiative have been outspoken, too, mostly labeling the effort anti-business. As expected, the Farm Bureau stood opposed, claiming that passage would mean Ohio farmers, taxpayers and businesses would face the prospect of costly legal bills fighting over a measure that will likely be found unconstitutional and unenforceable.

The Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce reportedly ran spots on nine Toledo-area radio stations predicting economic disaster if the measure passed. They called it a “job killer” that puts future development at risk. Some labor unions also opposed it, claiming the same.

As an interesting side note, one of the accusations against the Bill of Rights was that it would devastate Toledo-area churches. While no one has actually explained just how the churches will be impacted, a group of Catholic priests supported passage. Indeed, the Toledo Social Justice Subcommittee of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests said before the election it liked the initiative because it ensures the “right to a healthy environment for the residents of Toledo” and the “irrevocable rights for the Lake Erie ecosystem to exist, flourish and naturally evolve.”

While I doubt there will be direct divine intervention in the court proceedings, it does seem like it’s up to lawyers and courts to sort out what the plea by citizens to improve the lake will really mean. Specifically, will this be symbolism or, as its supporters claim, a new approach to planning and enforcement that will hold more polluters accountable? If the lake is granted rights, polluters could be sued on behalf of the lake.


The “Consumer Protection and Fuel Transparency Act” has been reintroduced in Congress and the call is out for marine dealers to help get the legislation passed.

“With year-round sales of E15 on the horizon, we need this bill more than ever,” says Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “This bipartisan bill would more clearly label gas pumps that contain E15 and better educate consumers about higher ethanol blend fuels.”

NMMA is continuing to lead the fight against bad fuel policies that will hurt boaters nationwide. Specifically, there’s a huge lack of consumer understanding about the dangers of E15. This bill would more clearly label gas pumps dispensing E15 and better educate consumers about ethanol blend fuels.

In non-partisan fashion, the “Consumer Protection and Fuel Transparency Act” has been authored by: Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL), Austin Scott (R-GA), Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Rob Wittman (R-VA). If one of these happens to be your Rep., thank her or him. Otherwise, you can click here to tell your members of Congress (both your Senators and your Representative) to introduce and/or support the “Consumer Protection and Fuel Transparency Act.”

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