Terry Swier, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, 231-972-8856
Rita Jack, Mackinac Chapter, Sierra Club, 517-484-2372
Wil Cwikiel, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, 231-347-1181
Kate Madigan, PIRGIM Environmental Advocate, 517-485-5029
Bethany Renfer, Clean Water Action, (517) 203-0754
Lana Pollack, Michigan Environmental Council, 517-487-9539
Environmental Groups Criticize Nestle Corporation’s
Call for Quick Action on Water Protection Legislation
Environmental groups across the state expressed disappointment that the Nestle Corporation cynically exploited Michigan’s economic situation this week by threatening layoffs and that state officials filed an amicus brief in an historic case over Nestle’s water bottling facility in Mecosta County.
The groups also said they were disappointed about a Michigan Court of Appeals stay of a decision ordering the multinational corporation to shut down its shallow aquifer pumping. But they said they are hopeful that Governor Jennifer Granholm and state DEQ Director Steve Chester will now demonstrate leadership in protecting Michigan and the Great Lakes from water raids.
“In a discussion with the Governor today, I was pleased to hear of her personal commitment to passing comprehensive water protection legislation,” said Michigan Environmental Council President Lana Pollack. “We look forward to helping her make this happen.”
Nestle Corporation did not seriously consider complying with the Court order by switching to deep wells that might avoid damaging wetlands and stream flow in the affected watershed. Instead, the multinational corporation chose to use the specter of layoff notices over the holidays as a tactic for pressuring the state to support the stay.
The environmental groups stressed that even the deep well option raises serious concerns, as export of Michigan water can threaten Michigan’s resources for current and future generations.
The Administration’s response may have been prompted by rumors that following the Circuit Court decision to shut down pumping operations at the Ice Mountain "Sanctuary Site,” industry groups threatened to use the legislature to gut Michigan's most important environmental laws, including the Michigan Environmental Protection Act and the Inland Lakes & Streams Act.
According to Michigan Environmental Council President Pollack, "Environmental groups support high-paying jobs in sustainable companies, but strongly oppose the idea that the export of water from the Great Lakes Basin should be a growth industry. Heavy-handed threats against Michigan’s environmental laws by multinational corporations should neither be tolerated nor encouraged. ”
Nestle was warned at least twice by Mecosta County Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Root that they were proceeding at their own risk in building the water bottling factory while the court proceedings took place.
While commending Governor Granholm and DEQ Director Chester for their commitment to providing a comprehensive water withdrawal and water use statute by early 2004, the groups said the Governor and Chester should have taken a strong leadership stance by supporting the court's decision to shut down water pumping within 21 days. Since getting any kind of statute through the current legislature will be a long, arduous process, such a deadline might have produced enough pressure to push the process along.
“We regret that the Administration did not consult with environmental
organizations before filing the brief,” said Anne Woiwode, director of
the Mackinac Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We would have pointed out the
reasons why Nestle’s arguments were simply inaccurate.”
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Member Services Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette Dr., Ste. 2A
Lansing, MI 48912
(517) 487-9541 fax