The new law allows citizens to litigate on behalf of the lake – which means that people, corporations, or governments that pollute the lake could be challenged in court for their actions. That could turn out to be a landmark legal standing, as Lake Eerie drains more than 30,000 square miles in the industrial heartlands of the US and Canada.
The law was widely celebrated by environmentalists and citizen activists who remember vividly the algal bloom of 2014 that poisoned Toledo’s drinking water. However, farmers joined businesses in harshly criticizing the bill over concerns that they could end up footing the bill for fertilizer runoff that has allowed algae blooms to become an annual occurrence in Lake Eerie. In fact, just 12 hours after the Bill of Rights was passed into law, a soy, wheat, and alfalfa farm just 40 miles southeast of Toledo challenged the law in court as unconstitutional.
Now, it’s up to the US District Court in Toledo to determine whether the budding “nature’s rights” movement has legal legs to stand on. If the court finds in favor of the Bill of Rights, communities across the US – particularly around the Great Salt Lake, the Chesapeake Bay, and the San Francisco Bay – could potentially follow Toledo’s lead in giving bodies of water legal representation.