Bill would up fee to bottle Michigan water

Nestle, Ice Mountain, bottled water
Nestle Ice Mountain water pumped from groundwater and bottled near Evart, Mich.

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A new bill before the Michigan legislature aims to make corporations pay more for Michigan’s groundwater.

State Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, is behind House Bill 5133, which was introduced Wednesday.

If the bill becomes law, corporations would pay a 5 cent per gallon fee for pumping, bottling and profiting off Michigan water. That revenue would go toward infrastructure improvements throughout the state.

“Nothing should be for free when you’re running a business. This is Michiganders’ water. It’s our water. It’s our state and why should we let other people come in take our most precious natural resource, put it in a bottle and then resell it back to us without paying anything?” Lucido said in a phone interview with 24 Hour News 8 Thursday.

His bill only pertains to bottling companies. Those who use the water for production but ultimately return it to the ground would not face any additional charges.

“Our governor has made it very clear we have an infrastructure crisis here in the state of Michigan,” he explained. “The only funding source I see available is if you’re taking our water from our aqueducts, springs that are below the earth, you should help contribute to pay for the things that are happening.”

For perspective, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality reports Nestle Waters North America pumps 1.1 million gallons of water each day for bottled water. If the bill passes, that would be an additional $20 million per year for Michigan infrastructure.

Current Michigan law only requires companies like Nestle to pay $200 per year for a permit to pump the groundwater. Filing for a permit requires a one-time $5,000 application fee, which Nestle still has pending with the state to increase their current pumping in Osceola County.

Nestle Waters issued the following statement in response to the proposal:

“Water is a renewable resource when managed responsibly, and sustainable water management is at the core of Nestlé Waters’ operations. Michigan’s abundant water supports jobs across numerous farms and industries in the state. It is important to know that all the water bottlers in Michigan combined account for just a fraction of a percent (0.01%) of the total water used in the state, based on data from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. It would be
inappropriate for the state to impose an excise tax on just one type of water user.”

“Furthermore, Nestlé Waters’ contribution to the state’s economy was made clear last month with the release of our Economic Impact Study, showing that we employ approximately 280 Michiganders and buy $51 million in goods and services from Michigan vendors, and that our economic activity supports a total of 765 jobs throughout the state and creates $161 million in economic output.”

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.