The Michigan State Supreme Court narrowly protected the Au Sable River from 1.15 million gallons of mining wastewater, and while the decision to protect the river should make the collective hearts of the 600-strong Anglers of the Au Sable soar, it might also put the boots to a longtime member of the Underground’s Water Axis of Evil.
Our close, personal friends at Nestle Waters of North America.
Here’s the story (found via the Third Coast Fly blog):
By siding with the Anglers of the Au Sable in a long-running lawsuit over a state permit that threatened the celebrated trout stream, the Michigan Supreme Court has strengthened protection of all state waters in the process, according to lead attorney Jim Olson.
The dispute began in 2005, when the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) gave Houston-based Merit Energy a permit to discharge up to 1.15 million gallons of treated wastewater from a contaminated site into a creek that flows into the Au Sable River [Editor's note: the Michigan DEQ was formerly run by a real moron]. The discharge plan was part of Merit Energy’s plan to clean up a former Shell Oil production facility in the Manistee River watershed.
Anglers of the Au Sableâ€”a 600-member environmental conservation groupâ€”mounted a legal campaign to block the move, arguing that it threatened the river’s health and amounted to a massive diversion of water from one watershed to another.
While early court rulings favored the Anglers, a state appeals court ruling dismissed the DEQ (now the Department of Natural Resources and Environment) from the suit.
But on December 29, a narrow 4-3 majority of the court rendered its verdict, ruling that Merit Energy’s discharge plan was â€œmanifestly unreasonableâ€ and that the DEQ should be held accountable for violating the Michigan Environmental Protection Act.
The name of the lawyer caught my eye; Jim Olson was the attorney who once put the boots to Hated Water Sleaze Corporation Nestle Waters of North America, and not only had he come through for the Au Sable, but the decision by the Michigan State Supreme Court means he likely he gets to stick a cattle prod in Nestle yet again.
The court decision also set a precedent that state waters should be protected as a public trust, rather than the less rigorous concept of a â€œreasonable use balancing test,â€ which had been used in a previous lawsuit, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation v. NestlÃ© Waters North America. In that 2007 case, the court ruled with the bottled water giant, which planned to pump millions of gallons annually from a Mecosta County aquifer.
Olson thinks the decision in the Au Sable case will help overturn the precedent set in the NestlÃ© Waters case, less than three years earlier.
That means it’s not just a good day for fishermen, but a great day for everyone everywhere (unless you happen to be a Nestle Exec).
See you in court, Tom Chandler.