U.S. Water News Online
LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan House Democrats have pushed to
prohibit new or expanded exports of bottled water outside the Great
Lakes drainage basin unless they are first approved by the
The lawmakers said a new state law regulating large-scale water
withdrawals does not go far enough because it allows bottled water to
be shipped outside the basin in containers smaller than 5.7 gallons.
Larger diversions via pipeline, tanker truck or railroad require
Democrats plan to introduce legislation, along with a proposed
constitutional amendment, that would require legislators to sign off
before allowing new or expanded exports of water by Michigan bottling
"We want to send a strong and clear message that our water is not
for sale," said Rep. Pam Byrnes, a Chelsea Democrat.
The Democratic measures, however, appear unlikely to win passage
in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Matt Resch, spokesman for Republican House Speaker Craig DeRoche
of Novi, said the new law signed by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm
already requires state permits for new or expanded water bottling
plants that want to withdraw more than 250,000 gallons a day.
"Given what we just accomplished, to come back and change it now
with this legislation sounds more like a campaign gimmick than a
serious proposal," Resch said.
Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said the governor, who had not seen
the Democratic proposal, is always interested in water protection
efforts. But she added: "We're proud of what we've already done in
signing into law a comprehensive water protection statute."
The constitutional amendment -- which mirrors the legislation --
will need a two-thirds vote in the House and GOP-controlled Senate to
get on November's statewide ballot.
The measures would change the classification of bottled water from
a consumptive use to a diversion. They also would increase the civil
fine for violating diversion restrictions from $1,000 to between
$25,000 and $3 million.
The Great Lakes contain 20 percent of the world's fresh surface
water, and their drainage basin abounds with inland lakes, rivers,
wetlands and subterranean aquifers.
In December, eight states -- including Michigan -- and two
Canadian provinces signed an agreement aimed at preventing outsiders
from raiding Great Lakes water. It outlaws most new or increased
diversions of water outside the basin but lets each state set its own
policies on bottling water.
Environmental groups such as Clean Water Action and the Sierra
Club contend that state permitting is too weak, noting there is no
limit on the amount of water that can be exported under Michigan's
Republicans, however, say it is unfair to treat bottled water any
differently than other products that are made with water.
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