Toledo Voters Easily Approved Lake Erie Bill of Rights Yesterday


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Toledo voters yesterday passed a ballot initiative by a 60-40 margin that bestows personhood on Lake Erie thanks to the "Lake Erie Bill of Rights." Though there are bound to be lawsuits and legislative proceedings in the aftermath, the vote marks the first time a specific American ecosystem is recognized with specific rights and allows for the redressing of harm caused to it.

“It was definitely a long, hard struggle to get to this day, but all the hard work and countless volunteer hours by everyone in our local community group has paid off,” stated Crystal Jankowski, a Toledoan for Safe Water organizer. “We started this more than two years ago and had to overcome election board decisions and protests in court just to get on the ballot.”

It could lead to situations where a polluter is brought to court where a judge would decide what state or local laws they violated.  The “harmer” of the lake might then have to pay large amounts to the local city or county for cleanup costs and/or prevention programs. It also could include criminal penalties and loss of business permits and operating licenses for violators. The backers of this bill say the real benefit will be to have a threat in place that will reduce pollution. And while the language is specific to Toledo, it broadly defined Lake Erie to include the entire body of water, sub ecosystems and watershed.

“We’ve been using the same laws for decades to try and protect Lake Erie. They’re clearly not working,” said Toledoans for Safe Water activist Markie Miller. “Beginning today, with this historic vote, the people of Toledo and our allies are ushering in a new era of environmental rights by securing the rights of the Great Lake Erie.”

Lake Erie celebrated the news on Twitter.

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