Ohio Chamber members would be harmed by Lake Erie Bill of Rights
The 8,000 member businesses of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s would be undermined by the Lake Erie Bill of Rights if it passes and is enacted, says a spokesman for the group.
The measure, on the ballot in Toledo this week, would threaten legitimate businesses that abide by the law, said Zack Frymier, director of energy and environmental policy with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
The organization sees the Lake Erie Bill of Rights as a serious threat to businesses and workers in the state.
“I don’t think it’s speculative to say that small- and medium-sized businesses that otherwise comply with all state and federal environmental laws could be facing lawsuits after this initiative, even though they’ve done everything right,” Frymier said.
Great Lakes Now is bringing a variety of perspectives about the issue with these extended conversations:
Making Waves at the Ballot Box: Effort to pass Lake Erie Bill of Rights started with citizens concerned about drinking water crisis
Targeting the Farms: Ohio agriculture industry concerned about what happens if voters pass the Lake Erie Bill of Rights
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Frymier said, is not actively campaigning against the issue at this time, but rather serving as a source of information and support for Ohio businesses.
Great Lakes Now: How would you describe the Chamber’s mission, or how does it serve its members?
Zach Frymier: We try to serve as the states leading business resource and advocate. We obviously champion pro-growth and free enterprise policies.
In previous court briefs, the Chamber (among other parties) focused on the legal right to place the Lake Erie Bill of Rights measure on the ballot, though never appeared to go into specifics on what harm they believe it might cause. What’s wrong with it the Lake Erie Bill of Rights?
I’ll let the amicus briefs speak for themselves when it comes to what our legal reasoning was for whether or not the initiative should proceed to the ballot or not. As far as the initiative goes, these are obviously what we consider to be anti-business attacks on businesses in other jurisdictions.
It injects uncertainty into the local economy and it purports to do some very radical things. It purports that local jurisdictions have the ability to nullify state and federal law which is obviously very concerning. Our businesses across the state rely on the certainties of state and federal laws for the framework for complying with environmental and other regulations, so injecting this uncertainty makes it harder to do business and potentially introduces additional impediments to growth. Essentially, if a business that’s looking at a particular community where one of these is in effect, to either start a business or grow a business, we could see that business go elsewhere.
Does the chamber consider this a slippery slope, with the possibility of widespread litigation in multiple states and Canada?
Yes. Like I said it’s a radical legal framework. It empowers people to bring suits on behalf of the lake and the ecosystem and is very concerning for us too, if you read the text, it strips business and corporations of the ability to even go to state or federal courts to assert their position that this is unconstitutional or otherwise illegal. So essentially you’re shutting the courtroom door to the very folks who are being impacted by this initiative. It’s a radical legal theory and we obviously think it’s bad.
There are just a few weeks until the election, and there’s a very short window of time for people to learn about or be made aware of the issue. How does the Chamber plan to advocate for its members on this issue?
In terms of the specifics on the ground, honestly, we’ve been serving as a resource for our local partners to educate them on why this one is bad for business and I believe they already well understand that and two, we’ve served as an information source for what we’ve seen when this issue has popped up in different areas of the state. I think you’re probably aware this isn’t just limited to Toledo although they are focusing on some very real water quality concerns we’ve seen some initiatives throughout the state of Ohio so it’s informing and working with our chamber members about what we’ve seen elsewhere in terms of the local effort to educate voters.
Is there a possibility that businesses, including small businesses, could be required to rack up large legal bills just to stay in business?
I would say that’s potentially an outcome. If you read the proposed language, anyone affecting the Lake Erie ecosystem in effect, opens themselves up to lawsuits even if they’re otherwise in compliance with all local, state and federal. This purports to pre-empt all that legal framework. We all know that regulations are already a huge concern, particularly for small and medium sized businesses in Ohio. You probably, as a small or medium sized business, spent a significant amount of time familiarizing yourself with all applicable environmental regulations and potentially spending significant dollars to comply with all those. And now having done that you’re opening yourself up to lawsuits when you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong barring this amendment passing.
Is the Lake Erie Bill of Rights an attempt to skirt existing state and federal environmental laws?
Reading the initiative text it explicitly states that all contrary state and federal laws are pre-empted and nullified by this amendment. So under the Clean Water Act and state environmental laws as well, obviously if you are having an environmental impact in the course of your business you comply with state and federal law, you get the necessary permits, you comply with all applicable regulations, so even if the business is in good standing and never even had an environmental violation in the course of their business if they’ve handled all the necessary permits it doesn’t matter in the eyes of this initiative. If they’ve had any environmental impact in the Lake Erie ecosystem, any Toledo citizen could potentially bring suit against them.
What else do you want people to know about this upcoming election?
These groups are far-left, radical environmentalist. Their base is not Ohio, they receive some significant funding from out-of-state sources. You know, the people of Toledo recognize that this is an unwarranted attack on businesses, and we hope they can see our concern with this initiative.
Featured Image: Ohio, find it here, Photo by Ohio Dept of Transportation via twitter