Lake rights group starts crowdfunding site

By: 
Larry Limpf

Supporters of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights ballot initiative that is now being contested in court have started a crowdfunding site to help defray legal costs.
Donations may be made at www.crowdjustice.com/case/defending-lake-erie.
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund drafted the bill of rights for the lake at the request of Toledoans for Safe Water, which then gathered signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.
Soon after Toledo voters approved the initiative in February, a member of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court for Northern Ohio that challenges the constitutionality of LEBOR, arguing it violates federal constitutional rights, including equal protection, freedom of speech and is unenforceable for its vagueness.
Last month, the court issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the city from enforcing LEBOR while the case proceeds.
The CELDF is representing backers of the initiative in the lawsuit and Mark Drewes, a director of The Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association whose family farms in Custar, O., is the plaintiff in the suit.
LEBOR grants legal rights to the Great Lake and its watershed as an amendment to Toledo’s charter.
In its argument for an injunction, Drewes Family Partnership states LEBOR infringes on standard farming practices.
“LEBOR unconstitutionally and unlawfully exposes farmers to massive liability for the use of any fertilizer or chemicals, even when such use comports with best practices, meets scientifically recommended levels, and would otherwise be lawful under state and federal regulation,” the partnership’s motion filed in February says. “If LEBOR forces Drewes Farms to halt fertilization, not only will the harvest fail, but also Drewes Farms will be in breach of its leases and production contracts.
“Depending on the weather, planting season for wheat will likely begin in late March and for the rest of the crops in April - the farm will need to begin fertilizing at that time in order to have a successful harvest. Injunctive and declaratory relief is therefore needed quickly
Attorneys for the CELDF have challenged the farm partnership’s legal standing in the case.
“LEBOR does not say that all pollution is unlawful. Or that all runoff is unlawful. LEBOR says that the Lake Erie Ecosystem has the right ‘to exist, flourish and naturally evolve,’ the people have a right to a ‘clean and healthy Lake Erie and Ecosystem,’ and that what is unlawful is for a corporation to violate these rights,” their motion for dismissal says.

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