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Ohio EPA Working On New Laws To Protect Lake Erie

A docked boat is reflected in the algae-covered water of Lake Erie's Maumee Bay in Oregon, Ohio in this Sept. 15, 2017, file photo.
Paul Sancya
Associated Press

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is asking the General Assembly to expand the power of state regulators over a specific source of water pollution affecting Lake Erie.

After a federal lawsuit and calls from environmentalists, the Kasich Administration declared western Lake Erie impaired due to high levels of chemicals that cause algae growth—especially phosphorus from fertilizer. The Ohio EPA wants state legislators to give it more authority over farm practices.

Ohio Farm Bureau spokesman Joe Cornley says more study of the nature of the problems would be better.

“Certainly we need standards,” Cornley says. “The public needs to be confident that the challenges are being addressed. But the idea that the only way to do that is through regulation is not the case.”

Ohio EPA director Craig Butler says the legislation is being crafted to incorporate new information and ideas.

“This bill is a skeleton,” Butler says. “We want to introduce the bill and start the conversation with all the ag producer groups and all the other environmental groups and others to say: ‘How are we going to get this done?'”

Action on the legislation is expected to begin in May.

Last week, a federal judge ordered the U.S. EPA to take immediate action on Ohio’s list of impaired waters and criticized both the Ohio EPA and its federal counterpart for failing to comply with the Clean Water Act.