Nestlé’s go at privatizing town water shot down by Michigan appeals court

"Allowing a corporation to bottle our water just to sell it back to us is hardly an 'essential service.'"

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On Tuesday, a three judge panel for Michigan’s appeals court ruled against Nestlé’s try at privatizing Osceola Township’s public water supply. The state’s second-highest court decided the company cannot build a pumping station in the town because it doesn’t comply with zoning laws.

Nestlé applied for a permit two years ago to build a pumping station in a children’s campground in Ocseola, a town in central Michigan, where it would extract hundreds of gallons of water from a local wellhead. The company said it would be providing an “essential public service” to the town. But Osceola town officials said the pumping station violated zoning laws. Nestlé in turn sued the town and a lower court sided with the multinational company in 2017.

“Allowing a corporation to bottle our water just to sell it back to us is hardly an ‘essential service,'” Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, a democrat, said.

Tuesday’s ruling was hailed a “victory” for the state where the appeals court argued that “other than in areas with no other source of water, bottled water is not essential.”

“Not only is groundwater essential for the state of Michigan, but we need to protect it and we need to put it in the public trust,” Rep. Yousef Rahbi, a democrat, said.

While the appeals court’s decision could be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, legislation was quickly introduced on Thursday by Rep. Pohutsky and two other lawmakers to protect the state’s groundwater from future privatization.

“The concept of our water as a #publictrust is something Michiganders inherently understand, even if they don’t know the term itself,” Jennifer Schlicht of Clean Water Action’s Michigan’s office, said. “Ask your lawmakers to support this and let’s work to elect folks who also will in 2020.”


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