Press Release

Tagged In: , , ,

Ohio Environmental Advocates File Merits Brief Arguing HB 507 is Unconstitutional

Environmental advocates sustain legal case to protect Ohio state parks from forced fossil fuel leasing

COLUMBUS, OH — In the latest legal action against Ohio’s House Bill 507, environmental advocates supported their collective suit in a merits brief filed late last week. The brief — drafted by attorneys from Earthjustice, the Ohio Environmental Council, and the Case Western Environmental Law Clinic, on behalf of plaintiffs Ohio Environmental Council, Buckeye Environmental Network, Sierra Club and Ohio Valley Allies — explains how HB 507 is unconstitutional under the Ohio Constitution’s one-subject and three-considerations rules.

The lawsuit against HB 507 remains ongoing as plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment to invalidate the law, which would stop the bill’s mandatory state parks leasing provision. The 134th General Assembly snuck it into the bill after fossil fuel interests lobbied for its inclusion.

In their initial filing, advocates requested both the preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order — an effort that would have prevented HB 507 from taking effect on April 7. The plaintiffs’ case continues even though the Judge denied the temporary restraining order in April 2023.

The defendant’s opposition brief must be filed by May 26, and plaintiffs’ reply brief must be filed by June 2, 2023, when all briefing is set to conclude.

Organizations submitted the following quotes:

Chris Tavenor, Associate General Counsel for the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC):

“Our merits brief underscores the unconstitutionality of HB 507 — a poultry bill stuffed with many distinct subjects — and its injurious impacts to Ohioans’ public lands. We’re hopeful the Court will concur with our merits and declare HB 507 unconstitutional, preventing the sly ‘shall lease’ provision from ever forcing the state to lease Ohioans’ favorite state parks to the oil and gas industry.”

Shelly Corbin, Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club:

“As our brief states, HB 507 violated provisions in the Ohio Constitution that didn’t allow for the proper legislation process that, as a result, barred Ohioans from having their voices heard on matters that will affect their everyday lives. This fracking and drilling bill guised as poultry legislation is a sneaky move by our state officials to undermine residents and cause lasting pollution and damage to the great lands of Ohio and our drinking water. We hope that the court will see through this and rule HB 507 unconstitutional.”

Roxanne Groff, Volunteer for People Protecting Ohio Public Lands:

“It is not just the public lands issue that is at stake. The idea that our lawmakers can stick any amendment onto an unrelated bill at the last minute during a lame duck session is the most devious of shenanigans in a supposedly democratic process. We can only hope the court sees the lawmakers’ efforts as unconstitutional to prevent this kind of lawmaking from happening in the future.”

Cheryl Johncox, Board Chairperson, Buckeye Environmental Network:

“It’s time we put an end to the fossil fuel industry being able to buy anyone and anything at the Ohio State House. These lands belong to every Ohioan. We have the right to play with our families on public land without the risk of being poisoned. Put our children’s health before oil and gas profits.” 

Jill Hunkler, Director, Ohio Valley Allies:

“We shall remain confident and vigilant in our stance against the fossil fuel industry as they attempt to use their influence to corrupt our state politicians into enacting unconstitutional laws that infringe upon the rights of Ohioans. For over 50 years, my extended family has gathered at state parks with great appreciation and enjoyment. HB 507’s mandatory oil and gas leasing provision of our public lands strips us of our power to protect these beautiful and treasured parks. Fracking has had devastating effects on Southeastern Ohio. Our public lands must remain free from oil and gas development.”