A lot of Michigan state lawmakers got phone calls and emails through the weekend and into yesterday. They were not election or virus control order related. Rather, the calls were about water. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy late Friday announced it was dismissing a permit challenge against Nestle Waters North America.  Nestle has been at odds with thousands of Michigan residents for years over its permit with the state to pull groundwater at a site in northern Michigan and plop it into plastic bottles and sell it for millions. But it pays next to nothing for the state permit to do that.

The most recent permit challenge came from the grassroots Michigan environmental protection group, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation,  and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. MCWC is posting a blistering rebuke of the administrative ruling on its website saying in part, “The slap in the face we received November 20th was an assault on all those who expect government agencies to serve in the public trust and protect natural resources for future generations.”

The initial complaints against the Nestle botting operation in Michigan pointed to what the groups characterized as the hypocrisy of a business cashing in on a valuable state resource and essentially paying nothing for the privilege. But the state EGLE department says its hands are tied. There is no state law requiring a company to pay the state to suck up, package, and resell freshwater, no matter how many millions of dollars it makes off the deal. It’s recommending the opposed parties and all interested residents lobby state legislators to enact some controls since it can’t do that on its own. Early word is lots of state lawmakers got calls, social media messages, and emails to that effect within a short time of the decision being made public.

A judge back in April ruled pretty much the same way. But it was not the final word on the matter as Friday’s administrative ruling turned out to be. Nestle’s public statement on the ruling supporting the permit shows the company is more than pleased. “We firmly believe that EGLE’s decision to approve our permit application was appropriate, as it carefully reviewed and considered our permit application in what it called “the most extensive analysis of any water withdrawal in Michigan history.”

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