Michigan Coalition Forms to Protect Jobs and Resources

You name it, Michigan-made products, roads and infrastructure, cities and villages, and food and beverages all depend on Michigan's bountiful water resources. A coalition of job providers and municipalities -- the Water Works Coalition -- is pressing state lawmakers to adopt Senate Great Lakes Compact legislation that would ensure water remains one of Michigan's most important competitive economic advantages. At the same time, the group says a House package of water-related bills would kill job creation and investment in the state.

"Water is the fuel for Michigan's economic engine," said the Michigan Manufacturers Association's Mike Johnston. "We can't grow industry and jobs here if the water isn't here and available for use. Michigan needs to adopt the Great Lakes Compact to keep our water where it belongs, while making sure it can be used for our state's benefit. The Senate's approach accomplishes both priorities."

Water Works formed to represent Michigan's business, manufacturing, and agricultural interests; municipalities; road builders; food and beverage producers, and other industry sectors.

The group supports the Senate package, which would allow Michigan to ratify the Compact and ensure provisions of existing water use laws and the Compact are consistent.

Minnesota, New York and Illinois have already moved toward Compact adoption. The legislatures of eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces must each enact legislation for adopting and implementing the Compact. The U.S. Congress must then adopt legislation to put the regional Great Lakes water management policy in effect.

Water users also support the concept behind a science-based water withdrawal assessment tool, which is being developed by scientists to serve as an online resource for entities considering a potential large water withdrawal. The tool would provide users with information about whether a prospective withdrawal would be environmentally safe. The group says it will support the withdrawal assessment tool legislation, provided its scientific integrity is maintained as it winds through the legislative process.

Doug Roberts, Jr. of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce added the House package would strip away important progress won for Michigan's water resources in 2006.

"While we are in favor of protecting Michigan's water resources, making water off-limits through costly, burdensome and unmerited regulations is a sure-fire way to set Michigan back even further economically," said Roberts.

In 2006, the Legislature, with consensus from business and environmental groups, enacted a series of water withdrawal laws that balance strong water resource protections with the need for use. Regulations call for large water users to report use, demonstrate that water withdrawals will not cause an adverse resource impact, and obtain permits for water withdrawals. A conflict resolution process has been in place since 2003.

An analysis by Water Works shows the House package, if enacted, would:
• Completely reverse the near-unanimous consensus achieved in both legislative chambers to enact Michigan's now one-year-old water protection laws;
• Introduce new uncertainties into the permitting process for water users;
• Add vague and burdensome permitting standards that go far beyond the Great Lakes Compact and that address matters unrelated to science and resource protections;
• Cause permits needed by important water using industries to become unreliable by requiring permits to be renewed periodically;
• Open the spigot on opportunities for litigation, even where state regulators have determined that standards have been met for permits; and
• Impose unfair and punitive measures against certain industries without scientific bases for doing so.

"Bottom line, this package says Michigan is 'closed for business,'" said Roberts.

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