Cartoon du jour.
Rep. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat, says the ban on diversions has a significant loophole: It allows bottled water to be shipped from the region, a hotly debated issue in his state. He has not decided whether to oppose the compact, said spokesman Nick Choate.
"The commercialization of the water is the big issue for him," Choate said.
Tom Henry, Toledo Blade:
Michigan last week
passed language for putting its version of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence
River Basin Water Resources Compact into effect, essentially closing
the deal on what its state legislators had agreed upon in principle in
On Friday, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed Ohio’s recently passed version into law.
Now all that’s keeping Congress from starting hearings this fall on the region’s most comprehensive effort to ban bulk water sales is the Pennsylvania Senate’s anticipated ratification, plus ceremonial signings and photo-ops with Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania.
I hate to put a damper on this party. But with the recent controversy about offshore drilling, I wonder just how permanent anything is.
What will happen to this region’s water — compact or not — when push comes to shove?
The failure of Michigan politicians to do the right thing by the responsibilities of the Great Lakes State, and dangerous loopholes left in water protections by the other seven Great Lakes states, points out the need for something new and urgent in this area of water commercialization: a citizen water board at the state (and someday at the regional) level.
The fact is that our politicians are too compromised by special interests in most cases to think beyond the next election cycle. And the next election's successes, as they know, are frequently determined by campaign cash. So decisions about public ownership of water that could have ramifications for centuries are being made on the basis of two- or four-year election cycle thinking.
What is needed, by citizen initiative most likely, is a three-member or five-member unpaid board of citizens charged with defending the public trust in water from all threats, foreign and domestic, and to exercise power to do so.
Howard Meyerson is a former colleague and an outstanding conservation writer. But this column will not make his greatest hits collection.
Michigan's deposit law is a huge success. Retailers have opposed it since before it was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 1976. Now (and for the last dozen years or so) they've been all for recycling -- as long as they're not involved. And they have not stepped up to the plate to fund an alternative with a reasonable chance of success. Even worse, they toss out nonsense like this:
Dechow and some pals decided to see what drivers were tossing out on the highway. They visited the Kent County Landfill where they tore open the trash bags used in the Adopt-A-Highway Program. "We went through a ton of litter collected from highways and found as many deposit bottles as non-deposit bottles," she said.
"Those were a minuscule amount compared to the other items."
That's hard proof that water bottle litter is not a problem? Come on.
Highlights of a comment on today's earlier post...
It’s disheartening to watch your team leave it all on the field in a grueling overtime game that leaves them bloodied and battered; and then be told in an ill-informed bit of Monday morning quarterbacking that they didn’t play hard.
This blog post also leaves the impression that Michigan is behind the rest of the region is protecting water, when, in fact, it is ahead of the curve in permitting, scientific review, public involvement, promoting water conservation and protecting water resources from cumulative impacts. The campaign has also raised tremendous public and media awareness of the public trust issue to set the playing field for the next stage of the game.
But to be told we lacked the will to win; or sacrificed Public Trust for the sake of a photo op or a good headline on a press release is unadulterated bull**** and deserved to be called such.
The allegation of Monday morning quarterbacking might be more accurate had this issue not been discussed here and elsewhere in great detail before not just this week's 'deal,' but the even worse one cut in 2006.
Michigan is ahead of the curve? Excuse me. What is the standard threshold for water withdrawals that require review under the new Michigan law? Is it anywhere near Minnesota's 10,000 gallons per day? Putting your reliance for conservation in a 'science-based tool' that defines allowable resource damage is hardly a novel innovation.
Who said anything about will to win? This is about political judgment, plain and simple. Bad judgment.
A news release from Michigan environmental groups Thursday would have you believe that this week's legislative action there on the Great Lakes compact and related water legislation "shifts the focus to Congress" for ratification of the compact.
Sorry, not yet.
The release also says the deal locks "in key safeguards for Michigan streams."
Seldom have so many tried to put so much lipstick on a pig.
For the second time in 3 years, the legislature and Governor have held that unlimited volumes of water exported out of Michigan in small containers are not a diversion, and are perfectly legit. Nestle couldn't be happier. Since there is no 'science-based' resource-based distinction between 300 million gallons a year exported in a tanker and 300 million gallons a year exported in bottles on tankers, the entire premise of the law and compact is at risk in the courts.
The bottled water loophole was created in the compact in 2005 when, without direct public participation, the National Wildlife Federation and others cut a deal with Great Lakes industry advocates. At the time NWF defended this by saying the compact provided a floor, not a ceiling; that states could go beyond the compact and ban bottled water exports if they wanted to. Regrettably, NWF has not supported such consistency in water policy in any of the eight Great Lakes states -- certainly not to the extent of making it a top priority.
More to the point, most of the groups (Clean Water Action EXCEPTED) working on the 2006 and 2008 Michigan legislation have lost their way. Anxious for a 'win,' just as NWF was in cutting the 2005 deal, they have overlooked the gaping flaws in these twin packages.
So before attention shifts to Congress, a few questions:
1) How many water withdrawals a year in Michigan will be required to obtain permits under the 'locked-in protections'?
2) Where will the funding come from to staff and enforce the law and how much money and how many bodies will be required?
3) What exactly assures the public that the Michigan DEQ will suddenly become a fierce protector of water and apply a strict conservation approach to implementing the law, when it has already applied the 2006 law to facilitate Nestle projects?
4) What is the maximum reduced flow of a stream under this law? What is the maximum reduction in fish populations permittable under the law? Is anyone worried that quantifying allowable levels and volumes of damage to fisheries and stream flows might not be a great idea?
5) When if ever will public ownership of water be a priority issue for the groups that have given it away as a bargaining chip twice in Michigan? And will it be possible then to turn the clock back to 2006 and 2008 and undo what was legislated then?
It may well be time for a new group focused solely on protecting the public trust in Michigan's waters in an era of looming commercialization. Wait, that would be Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation -- which has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in car washes, bake sales and grants to fight on behalf of all of us. MCWC, which does not exist inside the figurative Michigan Beltway. You know, the Beltway, where public ownership of water is considered an issue not worth spoiling a bill signing party and news release over.
It's a relief to know that Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, the grassroots group that has been fighting the commercialization of the Great Lakes, is not supporting (nor opposing) the deplorable compromise water legislation on its way to the desk of the state's governor. (The governor, as a candidate in 2002, said she would never sign legislation that permitted the sale and export of water; if she signs these bills, it will be the second breaking of that promise.)
Jim Olson, who has represented MCWC in its litigation, is also holding firm. See his comments attached.
bipartisan agreement announced today establishes important and concrete
protections for Michigan’s streams and makes water conservation an
integral part of the state’s water stewardship efforts.
..Coalition members said they would regroup in coming months to fight for
additional protections not included in the package.
..Coalition members said they would regroup in coming months to fight for additional protections not included in the package.
“We are extremely disappointed that the legislature failed to strengthen our important public trust protections, which affirms that water is a public resource that belongs to Michiganders and not to corporations or profit-takers,” said Cyndi Roper of Clean Water Action. “We intend to revisit this issue.”
So the one thing that two former Governors, a leading member of Congress and others said was critical is not part of this deal? "Pyrrhic victory" might be a better headline. If you want to put your faith in government bureaucracy to save Michigan's water, this package is a winner; if you trust citizens over special interests, it's not.
"The idea that we are just supposed to treat those water miners the same way we treat farmers or manufacturers or municipal water systems is absurd," Roper said.
In a key concession to the industry, the compact provides that water packaged in containers of 5.7 gallons or less and shipped outside the basin is not a diversion of Great Lakes water.