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Lawsuits & Litigation

The Environmental Law & Policy Center Sues EPA Over Lake Erie Algae Issues

— February 14, 2019

The Environmental Law & Policy Center is suing the U.S Environmental Protection Agency over allegations that the current cleanup strategies implemented by the former Kasich administration aren’t aggressive enough to combat the algae bloom problem in the western part of Lake Erie.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Law & Policy Center filed a lawsuit against the U.S Environmental Protection Agency over complaints that the Ohio EPA’s cleanup strategies regarding the western part of Lake Erie aren’t doing enough to combat the area’s chronic algae problem. As part of the suit, the environmental law center is “seeking a court order for substantial progress to be made by specific deadlines between now and 2025.”

The suit itself was filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo and listed as a co-plaintiff is Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie. According to court documents, “acting U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler and Cathy Stepp, the agency’s Midwest region acting administrator, are named as co-defendants.”

In the suit, the environmental law center alleged the EPA and its directors have been “too soft on the Ohio EPA in regard to cleanup efforts that state agency had been directing on behalf of the former Kasich administration and, now, on behalf of Gov. Mike DeWine.” Additionally, the complaint claims “residents of the western Lake Erie region will never get the water quality they need unless the U.S. EPA requires the state environmental protection agency to cap pollution discharges through what’s known as a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL, program.”

EPA Logo
EPA Logo; image courtesy of Cpicon92~commonswiki via Wikimedia Commons,

Prior to the lawsuit, a cleanup strategy was put in place by the former Kasich administration that “focused on reducing algae-forming phosphorus from the basin’s most distressed waterways.” However, the Environmental Law & Policy Center argues those cleanup efforts aren’t enough to remedy the situation. The suit argues that without more aggressive cleanup strategies, the Ohio EPA “will be able to continue dragging its feet and failing to protect western Lake Erie waters for many years more with limited legal and public accountability.” At the same time, residents throughout the region will continue suffering from “recurring outbreaks of harmful algal blooms.”

This isn’t the first time the environmental law center has filed a complaint of this nature. In fact, in October 2018, Senior Judge James G. Carr dismissed a similar complaint. Additional roadblocks may also be waiting on the horizon, as well, because the new DeWine administration “has not stated publicly yet if it plans to keep the Kasich administration’s cleanup strategy in place, or move on to something else.” For now, Dan Tierney, the press secretary for the DeWine administration stated the latest lawsuit “is being reviewed by Ohio EPA.”

So far the U.S. EPA has declined to comment, as per it’s a policy against commenting on pending litigation.

On the other side of the aisle, Howard Learner, The Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy said:

“The Clean Water Act provides a specific legal pathway to reduce phosphorus pollution causing harmful algae blooms in western Lake Erie, but U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA refuse to follow the law.”


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