Nestlé opponent asks judge to overturn Michigan case dismissal
LANSING, MI – A Michigan water conservation group that has fought against groundwater withdrawals by Nestle has asked a judge to overturn a decision by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration to rebound its challenge to the company’s license on a technicality.
The Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) is challenging a decision by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), which dismissed the group’s challenge to a permit allowing Nestlé Waters to extract more groundwater for bottling under the Ice Mountain brand. .
The group’s judicial review petition was filed Thursday, Jan.21, in Ingham County Circuit Court.
In a press release, MCWC President Peggy Case called “punitive, illegal and utterly unfair” the rejection of the group’s appeal by EGLE Director Liesl Clark after an administrative judge from the state has confirmed Nestlé’s controversial license. initially granted in 2018 under former Republican Governor Rick Snyder and subsequently defended by the Whitmer administration.
“We were hoping the ‘new’ EGLE would rule on substance and finally end Nestlé’s ability to extract our water for free and damage our streams and lakes,” Case wrote. “We hoped that EGLE would honor the precedent of an earlier litigation that was won by the MCWC in 2009 to reduce Nestlé pumping.
“EGLE apparently thought he could just kick the box and avoid a real decision,” she wrote.
The group says EGLE encouraged the MCWC to go through an administrative process that cost them $ 200,000 over two years before EGLE dismissed the case because of its jurisdiction. In November, Clark ruled that EGLE did not have the power to hear challenges to these permits under state law and that the group’s case should have been brought before a circuit court.
EGLE spokesperson Scott Dean declined to comment, saying Clark’s decision “speaks for itself.”
“We have nothing new to say on the matter,” he said.
The MCWC filing is the latest screw-up in legal efforts to reverse state approvals that allow Nestlé to remove 576,000 gallons of groundwater per day from the springs of two cold-water trout streams in Osceola County.
The state granted Nestlé its license in 2018, but state regulators say the company’s watershed monitoring plans remain under review and that Nestlé has still not increased pumping on the site. well in the township of Osceola, northwest of Evart.
The MCWC and the Ottawa Grand Traverse Band and the Chippewa Indians challenged the approval of Nestlé’s permit in July 2018; arguing that the state erred in granting the permit because, among other reasons, it was done using modeling data rather than actual measurements in the field. Nestlé says its data shows withdrawal rates are sustainable and will not harm the environment.
If a circuit court judge rules in favor of the MCWC, lawyers in the case say Clark should reconsider his ruling and rule on the merits of the group’s challenge.
The MWCW and the tribe could also file a new lawsuit against Nestle or the state in circuit court if necessary, lawyers say.
The state case is separate but linked to a local zoning conflict between Nestlé and the Township of Osceola, which hampered Nestlé’s plans to build new distribution infrastructure needed to deliver additional water to its bottling plant by denying zoning approval to build a filling station. overpressure that would increase the pressure in a water pipe.
Michigan Court of Appeal sided with the municipality in 2019, rejecting Nestlé’s argument that bottled water met the local zoning ordinance’s definition of an “essential public service”.
Nestlé Waters North America issued a statement Friday saying the MCWC’s appeal had “no merit” and referring to previous statements by EGLE which characterized the review of the company’s permits as only thorough. “We have confidence in the science behind our license,” said a spokesperson for Nestlé.
The public disclosure of the request in 2016 sparked widespread public outcry regarding the potential environmental impacts, and those upset that Nestlé could draw groundwater from essentially no cost while residents of Flint drank water contaminated with bacteria and lead, and low-income residents of Detroit had their taps turned off for non-payment.
The Whitmer administration has said issues of developing a royalty or state royalty system for bottled water wells should be considered by lawmakers, which have not given significant consideration to the matter.