News Release on Nestle Challenge by Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation April 27, 2020

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The April 24 ruling by Administrative Law Judge Daniel L. Pulter issued on
behalf of the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy
(formerly MDEQ) upheld the permit issued to Nestle Corporation by the
MDEQ to pump water from the White Pine Springs well in Evart (PW-101)
at a rate of 400 gallons per minute. The Contested Case brought forth by
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation and the Grand Traverse Band of
Ottawa and Chippewa Indians was denied.

EGLE successfully argued on behalf of Nestle and in support of the
original permit decision granted to Nestle by the Snyder administration on
April 2, 2018 following over a year of public comment and protest. Nestle
had been granted a permit to withdraw at 150 gpm in March of 2009. It was
given an additional permit, without public notice or comment, to add
another 100 gpm in April of 2015, thus pumping at 250.

In July of 2016 Nestle applied for the contested permit to increase to 400
gpm. Notice was given to the public in obscure publications and we were
not aware of it until notified by a reporter in October when there were only 4 days left of the public comment period. MCWC and others mounted a
campaign for comment and the response was so overwhelming in
opposition to the permit that the comment period was extended twice, and
a public hearing was forced for the spring of 2017. Over 600 people
appeared in Big Rapids, 50 testified against the permit, and comments
were ultimately taken from roughly 80,000 people with only a handful
supporting the permit. It was nevertheless granted by Snyder’s MDEQ
under the leadership of former BP spokesperson Heidi Grether in April of

MCWC filed a petition for a contested case hearing and was joined by the
Grand Traverse Band. Many other organizations voiced support for our
petition. There was eventually hope that the new administration, given
numerous campaign promises to reign in the power of corporations to
exploit our natural resources, would come to the aid of the petitioners and
assist us in interpreting the existing legal frameworks to demonstrate the basic flaws in allowing computer models to over-ride the real time data
generated by past precedent in Mecosta and current conditions in Evart
after pumping at 250 gpm.

This did not happen. In fact, we were never even given the courtesy of a
face to face meeting with the Attorney General’s office or the director of
EGLE. We were invited to attend the public relations events held by EGLE
but were told we could not discuss the Nestle permits because we were in
litigation. Of course, Nestle was in constant contact with EGLE staff and the
Assistant Attorneys general assigned to the case since they were arguing
on behalf of Nestle’s permits throughout. At no time did the organs of the
State see fit to consult with or support the petitioners who were asking the
State to exercise its public trust responsibility to defend the waters of the
commons from exploitation and depletion.

So, we were not surprised that our efforts did not result in victory in the
court of EGLE, even after a lengthy and expensive legal battle. In the court
of public opinion, we had won long ago. The Court of Appeals had upheld
the right of Osceola Township to exercise its zoning rights and deny Nestle
a booster station that was not deemed in the public interest.

The injustice of Nestle’s water grab, strictly for corporate profit, while many
citizens still are without clean water throughout the state, has been well
understood, particularly in this time of a major health crisis that demands
water access in something other than expensive plastic bottles. Nestle has
profited greatly from the Flint water disaster, about to witness a sixth
anniversary with no justice still in sight for those responsible. The trucks roll out of the Stanwood bottling plant with even more profit as the corona virus prompts people to clear the store shelves under the false notion that bottled water is essential even for those who already have public water systems that are working. Public pressure from non-profits finally forced the Governor to act to restore public water to Detroiters who had been shut off, though those still without were given more bottled water as Nestle profit mounted.

Nestle’s world-wide campaign to promote private bottled water at the
expense of affordable public infrastructure is producing predictable
consequences during the current Covid-19 crisis. Those who don’t need
bottled water are hoarding it and those who cannot get public infrastructure funded and fixed are forced to rely on it to get through the crisis.

Unfortunately, the laws of our state still allow private corporations to profit
from our natural resources but do not seem to support public health and
welfare. Those laws must change so that the human right to clean,
affordable water and sanitation becomes the top priority of government,
rather than the promotion of corporate greed and destruction of
environmental support systems.

MCWC intends to continue its education and advocacy work on behalf of
water justice, and in opposition to the pollution, plunder and privatization of the waters of the Great Lakes Basin. This recent set-back, the remnant of
antiquated laws and the continuing control of our governments by large
corporations, is a temporary set-back. A new world is going to emerge from
the current crises, and justice will have to guide us in mounting the even
greater existential challenge to control the climate crisis. The lessons
learned now will inform the rising movement to achieve a livable future for
our children. This little set-back, in one insignificant court, will not deter us
from continuing our challenges to business-as-usual or our determination to enact laws and policies that actually serve all the people and preserve our ecosystems.

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation


Contact person:
Peggy Case


The People’s Water Board Coalition advocates for the human rights to water and sanitation and equitable access and affordability for impacted communities.


2022 People's Water Board Coalition