Legal with Leah

Legal With Leah: Lake Erie Rights Court Ruling

Two wins occurred on the legal front for farmers who faced potentially troubling rulings dealing with agriculture and water quality. Farm Bureau policy counsel Leah Curtis shares the good news.

Some excerpts:

Joe Cornely: There have been two recent developments on the legal front both attached to the farming and water quality discussion. Farm Bureau Policy Counsel Leah Curtis helps us dig through what happened. First of all there was a proposal to give Lake Erie its own rights. Tell us about that.

Leah Curtis: Yes so this was an initiative to make changes to the Toledo City Charter which would have given the lake rights and standing to pursue those rights in Toledo’s municipal courts. And it also would have given citizens the ability to file on behalf of the lake to to put forth those rights as well.

Joe Cornely: So this was a combination from some local activist organizations and then some national groups too that brought this motion forward. What happened?

Leah Curtis: So they did collect signatures. They submitted it to the local Board of Elections. The Board of Elections rejected it on the basis of several Supreme Court rulings that say creating a new cause of action is something that’s outside the scope of municipal power and municipalities can’t change their charters to include things that are outside the scope of their power. Those who supported it then appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court to try to get it on the ballot. We filed an amicus brief to talk about the concerns about allowing things that are outside the scope of that municipal power to be put on the ballot.

Joe Cornely: A federal judge, Judge Carr, has been weighing in for months now on the ways to go about fixing Lake Erie. Who is he and what’s his exact role here?

Leah Curtis: Judge Carr is a federal district judge in the northern district of Ohio. That’s the federal district courts that cover northern Ohio including Toledo, and the Environmental Law Policy Center filed a lawsuit in his courtroom in that district which was then assigned to him that first asked them to review U.S. EPA action in approving Ohio’s impaired waters list and then they later asked for a change to their complaint to instead argue that U.S. EPA  acted unlawfully by not requiring what’s called a TMDL, a total maximum daily load for Lake Erie.

Joe Cornely: So this is just a totally subjective viewpoint. What I’ve read the judge seems to sympathize with those that want a TMDL and yet in this ruling, it went the other way.

Leah Curtis: The judge has to look at all the evidence available and he has to look at it in the best light for the other party that’s not motioning and determine if there’s still a claim. And he said that based on all the information available it is clear that US EPA had not acted unlawfully and that they did have time still to consider what should be done in response to Ohio listing Lake Erie as impaired.

Listen to Legal with Leah, a podcast featuring Ohio Farm Bureau’s Policy Counsel Leah Curtis discussing topics impacting farmers and landowners.Ohio Farm Bureau membership

Amanda Domsitz 

Amanda Domsitz is a communications specialist for Ohio Farm Bureau.