[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

Re: E-M:/ News Release: Governor Signs Landmark Water-Use Protections Into Law

The questions raised in Kramer's email are good ones and do, in fact, go to the heart of why Clean Water Action did not support the agreement that resulted in the bills signed into law today. We are proud, however, of the environmental campaign for water withdrawal and diversion protections that Clean Water Action helped lead and believe the new water withdrawal permitting rules, limited stream protections, and the conditional legislative approval  are steps in the right direction.  
Only a few of the 55 groups and businesses who supported the Great Lakes, Great Michigan campaign for protections against large-scale water withdrawals and diversions had an opportunity to weigh in on the pros and cons of the water use agreement when the deal was struck earlier this month.  The agreement was proposed on the eve of what we thought was likely to be a bipartisan victory in the state House for strong protections, and then on to an uncertain future in the Senate.  Clean Water Action was one of the groups who weighed in on the industry-backed proposal and we believed--and still do--that on balance it was not a deal that we could support.  That decision was based on our 30-plus years experience working for water protections, and the ongoing advice we received from the very best legal and policy minds on the issue of water privitization.  All thought that creating a legal sanction for the diversion of Great Lakes waters by private industry was unacceptable and posed a high risk for the future of maintaining public control over our waters.   Both the benefits of the new water use rules, and the new diversion loophole, are now law. The question for us today is what to do about enforcing the new rules, plugging the big  loophole, protecting the Great Lakes, and putting the public firmly in control of our waters. 

David Holtz
Michigan Director
Clean Water Action

Kramer wrote:
"Landmark" indeed and definately "first-of-its-kind" --a landmark and first-ever historic sell-out of the Great Lakes is what this new law is.  When the environmental groups put out their press releases a few weeks ago they forgot to mention that this wonderful legislation they support actually gives legal permission for water diversions as long as they are in containers of 5.7 gallons or less.  Why did the greens give corporations such a wonderful deal?  Won't this just lead to others wanting exemptions from being treated as diversions? Who is going to enforce the new rules that did get into the law?  We hardly have any enforcement of laws on the books already.  To PIRGIM and the other groups like Clean Water Action can you explain how this legislation is a good thing since corporations like Nestle will now be able to legally take our water anyplace they want?  Thanks.


February 28, 2006
Contact: Kelly Dardzinski, PIRGIM (517) 664-2600
Jason Barbose (734) 662-6597
Governor Signs Landmark Water-Use Protections Into Law
First-of-its-kind Legislation is Culmination of 15-month Campaign
LANSING – Governor Granholm, joined by PIRGIM and other members of Michigan's environmental community, signed a landmark package of water-use bills today, bringing long overdue protections to Michigan's waters.
"From now on, anyone with a pipe and a pump can't just help themselves to our most precious public resource," said PIRGIM Advocate Kelly Dardzinski.  "For the first time, we have a set of laws in place to protect our water from exploitation.  We thank the Governor and legislators like Representative Jack Brandenburg and Senator Patty Birkholz who came together to make this happen, for all of us and for future generations." 
Throughout the campaign, PIRGIM talked with over 54,000 Michiganders, delivered nearly 9,000 postcards to legislators, held over 100 meetings with legislators, and collaborated with more than fifty business, environmental, and religious organizations to advocate for strong legislation.  In addition, PIRGIM wrote and distributed the report "Left Out to Dry," a case study of how Michigan's lax water use laws harmed citizens and natural resources.
"Water use in Michigan was a free-for-all, and citizens and our natural resources were paying the price," said Dardzinski.  "These laws contain common-sense standards to prevent overuse and abuse of Michigan's water and the Great Lakes."
The final bill package includes significant protections, such as:
  • An immediate prohibition against new large-scale water withdrawals that cause adverse resource impacts to trout streams.  This prohibition will expand to protect all Michigan's waters in two years.
  • A permit requirement for new large-scale water withdrawals.
  • An additional, more stringent permit requirement for new large water-bottling projects, including a requirement that the projects include plans to remedy any measurable impacts.  
  • A legislative approval requirement for water diversion projects if the current Michigan law against diversions is overturned.
  • A requirement that each sector of industry develop water conservation standards.
Although the legislation exempts water in containers smaller than 5.7 gallons from being considered a diversion and thus subject to legislative approval, the resource-protection and public input requirements imposed on new large water-bottling facilities are believed to be the toughest of their kind in the nation.  While PIRGIM believes that any water leaving the Great Lakes basin should receive legislative approval, these laws will provide real, immediate protections for vulnerable inland waterways by requiring new water bottling companies to meet stronger protection standards and receive more public input than any other user.
"Thanks to this legislation, special interests will no longer be able to treat Michigan's water as their own private wells, and Michigan's residents and resources will no longer have to foot the bill for irresponsible water use," concluded Dardzinski.  "It is truly a historic moment for Michigan."
# # #
PIRGIM is a statewide, non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization dedicated to preserving the environment, protecting consumers and promoting good government.
Jason Barbose
PIRGIM Field Organizer

103 E. Liberty St., Suite 202
Ann Arbor, MI 48104