Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Sure Way to Kill Job Growth in Michigan

Michigan badly needs new jobs.  Can employers invest and grow in the Great Lake State without damaging the environment? Of course they can, but in order to achieve job growth while preserving the environment, we need to set policy based on accurate information and common sense.   Let's talk about water withdrawal for example...

Is it possible to drain Lake Michigan?

You may have heard of past battles over the water bottling plant in Evart, Michigan.  Nestle Waters (Ice Mountain) has created hundreds of jobs by bottling and selling spring water.  Our friends who are concerned about the environment apparently are not using common sense and good science to set policy. We can protect our surface and ground water without enacting overburdensome regulations that kill economic growth.
There is a package of bills in the House (HB5065-5073) that would literally choke off any new investment by Nestle or any other bottling plant in our state (whether that be water, fruit juices, carbonated beverages or beer).  This package of bills would also strongly discourage new investment by any manufacturing firm that uses water in large quantities. For that matter, these bills would make it difficult even for large farming operations to prosper.
Here are some of the things this bill package would do:
  • Reduce water withdrawal from any great lake to 1,000,000 gallons per day

  • Enact aggressive new permitting requirements

  • Increase permit fees to $2,500

  • Give the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) 180 days to review and grant the permit (not including an unlimited amount of time to be sure the application is "complete")

  • Generally give the DEQ broad authority to regulate, restrict and penalize any producer or manufacturer in Michigan who they believe is using too much water.

Some Perspective

How much water is 1 million gallons and does it matter to Lake Michigan?  Lake Michigan alone has 1,180 cubic MILES of water. If you were to plug all the streams and rivers flowing into Lake Michigan and try to drain it at 1 million gallons per day, it would take over 3.5 million years to empty! Or, if one thousand new companies set up shop in Michigan, and each one used one million gallons a day, it would take over 3,500 years to empty the lake. But that does not account for the fact that the water is continually replaced every year from snow and rainfall.
How much does the water bottling plant in Evart, MI affect surface and ground water? The Ice Mountain plant bottles 161 million gallons of water per year. Compare that to total water usage in Michigan by all manufacturers, farms, golf courses, power plants and municipal water suppliers. They use a total of almost 4 trillion gallons of water per year. Ice Mountain's portion of that usage amounts to 7 one-thousandths of one percent. And yet, a package of bills has been introduced to choke off new investment by companies like Ice Mountain.
Michigan is already one of the most regulated states in the country. Commerce and industry move quickly.  It is unrealistic to think that a company is going to put their plans on hold for six months (at best) while they wait for the DEQ to make a decision about whether they can build and grow.
Let's face it; this legislative package is aimed squarely at Ice Mountain. They and others would like to expand into Michigan, where we have so much water underground, that we need sump pumps in almost every basement. (And, by the way, we IMPORT more bottled water than we export.)
If we pass this these bills, we will only further cripple this state's ability to ever recover from the worst economic slump in at least twenty years.
The bottom line is, Michigan will lose opportunities while other states gain. This is something we can no longer afford to do.

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