Feature photo by Brian Yurasits


May 7, 2024


Tish O’Dell



Terry Lodge, Attorney CELDF



Athens Local Businesses Support Rights of Nature and the City’s Plastic Bag Ban in Amicus Curiae 

OHIO, Athens County – CELDF has filed an amicus brief in Athens County, Ohio Common Pleas Court on behalf of two local businesses who support the City of Athens against a  State of Ohio lawsuit seeking to strike Athens’ locally-enacted plastic bag ban. The businesses, Village Bakery & Café and Cool Digs, Inc. back the council-passed ban as well as a 2014 citizen-adopted law known as the Community Bill of Rights and Water Supply Protection Ordinance. 

The Community Bill of Rights contains very specific language giving both the city, the residents, and nature the right to protect their health and community from chemical trespass posed by harms such as plastic bag production and usage within the city. From the City of Athens Codified Ordinances § 97.01.04(B):

“All residents of the City of Athens possess a fundamental and inalienable right to a healthy environment, which includes the right to clean air, water, soil, flora, and fauna…and the right to protect the rights of natural communities and ecosystems upon which each resident is both intrinsically a part and dependent.”

And from § 97.01.04(D):

“Ecosystems and natural communities possess the right to exist and flourish within the City of Athens and its jurisdiction. The residents of Athens have the inalienable right to enforce and defend those rights to protect all ecosystems, including, but not limited to, wetlands, streams, rivers, aquifers, and other water systems, within the City of Athens or its jurisdiction.”

The central question in play here is whether the citizens of Ohio, through their local municipal governments, have the right to protect themselves, their communities, and the ecosystems they and their communities depend on from pollution and chemical trespass.  Stated differently, can the state override a local government when that government institutes a higher level of protection for its people and ecosystems?

“It’s death by a thousand cuts when we list out all the harms we face on a daily basis including exposure to plastics and microplastics,” says Tish O’Dell, CELDF’s Consulting Director. “But it’s also the case when we take stock of all the times the state has stepped on the actions of local communities stepping up to protect the health and quality of all life within the community.”

The volume of studies released in the last 10 to 15 years demonstrates that there is  a global epidemic of microplastics causing a myriad of harms to human health and the environment on which life depends. CELDF notes in the brief, “The Washington Post recently reported that in one study micro plastics were found in every single one of 62 placentas studied and, in another study, micro plastics were found in every artery studied.”

“Village Bakery & Café and Cool Digs Inc. are asking whether or not the People have the inalienable right to protect the health and safety of the community in which they reside,“ said O’Dell. “We believe they do.”

About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is helping build a movement for Community Rights and the Rights of Nature to advance democratic, economic, social, and environmental rights – building upward from the grassroots to the state, federal, and international levels.

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