You may have read recently about a bill that would set limits for withdrawals of water from Lake Erie. The Ohio Environmental Council explains well why it’s a bad piece of policy, but in short, HB 231 allows massive, unregulated withdrawals of water by industry from the shallowest of the Great Lakes.
The bill has been so rushed and is so problematic to the integrity of the eight-state agreement known as the Great Lakes Compact (whose primary goal was to preempt against diversions of Great Lakes water to other states and countries), that former GOP governors Taft and Voinovich took the rare step of making public their opposition to the bill, with Taft actually testifying in committee. Editorials ran in newspapers around the state, with the Plain Dealer suggesting that lawmakers supporting the bill “would prefer to transform Lake Erie into a resource to be plundered for profit.”
Unfortunately these urgings fell on deaf ears as Republicans passed the bill along party lines saying that the unregulated withdrawals were necessary for “job creation,” sending it to the Governor, whose signature it now awaits.
So why would the GOP put the Lake and eight-state compact at risk, all in the name of increased profits? And whose profits, anyway?
The interesting answer can be found on House of Representatives’ website. HB 231 is sponsored by Republican Rep. Lynn Wachtmann. On his House bio, Wachtmann reveals that when he is not introducing unconstitutional abortion bans he is employed as the President of Maumee Valley Bottling, Inc. and serves on the board of the International Bottled Water Association. Now why on earth would the bottled water industry care about unregulated daily withdrawals of millions of gallons of water from the Great Lakes?
The self-dealing and conflict of interest here is so blatant, it’s a complete mystery why it’s not getting coverage from the media. Frankly, it’s not clear how this is even legal. Employees of the executive branch are subject to an Ohio ethics law that requires them to immediately recuse themselves of any involvement in decisions that may directly benefit their outside business interests, or those of family members. But apparently, in the Ohio House, you can write legislation to enrich yourself and your industry and get dozens of your fellow legislators to help you out. And we expect, within days, all with the Governor’s signature. This isn’t even the first time Watchmann has introduced legislation from which he would personally stand to profit.
Well done, Ohio republicans. These days, your corruption knows no limits.