In an outrageous example of corporate hijacking of government, Nestlé is about to get permission from the state of Michigan to nearly double the amount of groundwater it draws from a plant in Evart to 210 million gallons a year.
Michigan Live reported that the request is in conjunction with a $36 million expansion of its Ice Mountain bottling plant.
The kicker is that Michigan is about to sell 100 million gallons of groundwater for $200 a year — to a company that is currently worth almost $212 billion. Regulators say that is because under state law, the bottling plant in Evart is considered to be a private well.
Residents are understandably outraged, especially in the aftermath of the Flint water crisis, in which public officials switched water sources and caused lead to contaminate the city’s water in order to save money.
Michigan’s government response to the fury is that the construction of the plant will create jobs. How many jobs? That number is 20. Yes, you read that right. In the eyes of Michigan’s government, 20 jobs is the market rate for more than 100 million gallons of virtually free groundwater every year.
Nestlé’s plant at Evart is just 120 miles from Flint, where the Guardian reported the water is still unsafe to drink unfiltered.
Health officials have also said that bacterial illnesses in Flint are rising because residents are afraid to shower or bathe.
Back in 2001, the non-profit group Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation sued Nestlé over the potential damage to the environment that its bottling plant would cause.
In 2009, the two sides settled on an agreement that reduced Nestlé's siphoning to 218 gallons per minute from 400.
The proposed permit from the Michigan Department of Environment Quality would take Nestlé’s groundwater withdrawals back up to the level it originally wanted. It would be a major blow to the years of work the MCWC put in to save Michigan's lakes, rivers and streams.
State and federal government’s capitulating to corporate overreach is nothing new in America. The most current example is the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Since April, a Native American-led opposition has galvanized into an international movement against a $3.7 billion North Dakota pipeline that would transport a half million barrels of fracked crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has resisted the pipeline’s construction because the pipeline runs within less than one kilometer of their reservation and endangers their sacred cultural sites and water supply.
Nestlé is the largest owner of private water sources in Michigan, and it’s not surprising as the conglomerate has deep ties to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s office. As Democracy Now has reported, Deb Muchmore, the head spokesperson for Nestlé Michigan, is married to Snyder’s former chief of staff.
As long as the incestuous relationship between corporations and government continues, average Americans will be the ones to deal with its consequences.
With President-elect Donald Trump taking office with a plethora of widely reported conflicts of interests, it’s only likely to get worse.
Banner Photo: Reuters