Category Archives: Fryeburg

Stories pertaining to Fryeburg, ME

A Timeline of Nestle Waters’ Five Lawsuits Against Fryeburg, ME

While Nestle’s ads in the local papers refuse to acknowledge what they’re doing in Fryeburg (that’s five lawsuits/appeals and counting), the reality is this: the multinational has behaved badly towards this tiny rural town, which simply said “no” to Nestle’s attempt to build a 100 truck-trips-per-day truck loading station in a residential area.

Nestle responded with a series of suits and appeals, at one point essentially arguing in front of the Maine Supreme Court that their right to grow market share superseded the town’s right to say “no.”

Incidents like this put the lie to Nestle’s newly formulated “we’re a good corporate neighbor” public relations campaign, which is apparently what you do when you’re unwilling to alter your business model for a less predatory stance.

You can see the original post at the Water in News site:

In June of 2005: Nestlé Waters North America submitted an application to the Fryeburg Planning Board to construct a trucking facility in a Rural Residential District. The site would be used to load up to 50 eighteen-wheeler water tanker trucks over a 24 hour period, seven days a week, 365 days a year with water extracted from the neighboring town of Denmark. All trucks would enter onto a section of Rt 302 that is identified by the Maine Department of Transportation as a high crash location.

On October 19, 2005: the Fryeburg Planning Board approved a 16 page result orientated decision drafted by only one member of the board and not shared with all members of the Planning Board until the night of the vote.

A loose knit group on citizens formed, calling themselves “Western Maine Residents for Rural Living.” The group hired an attorney and exercised their democratic right to file an appeal to the Fryeburg Zoning Board of Appeals in regards to the Planning Board’s decision.

On January 27, 2006: the Fryeburg Zoning Board of Appeals denied Nestlé’s permit issued by the Planning Board.

On March 21, 2006: Nestlé Waters North America Inc, as plaintiff, filed suit in the Oxford County Superior Court system against the Inhabitants of the Town of Fryeburg, Maine, the Board of Appeals of Said Town and Western Maine Residents for Rural Living.

On August 9, 2006: Superior Court Justice Roland A. Cole remanded the case back to the Fryeburg Planning Board for additional findings and conclusions on key points brought up by the citizens of Fryeburg in 2005.

On August 24, 2006: Nestlé does not follow Judge Cole’s remand, and instead filed suit in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Nestlé Waters North America v. Inhabitants of the Town of Fryeburg and Western Maine Residents for Rural Living.

On July 24, 2007: After numerous filing of briefs and oral testimony by both parties, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court concludes that because the Superior Court’s remand was not acted on by the Planning Board in Fryeburg, the case was not ripe for them to make a decision. The Court dismissed Nestlé’s arguments.

From July 31 to November 13, 2007: The Fryeburg Planning Board addressed the Superior Court remand and on November, 13 2007 denied Nestlé’s permit.

December 2007: Nestlé filed an appeal of the 2007 Fryeburg Planning Board’s decision to the local Fryeburg Zoning Board of Appeals.

On January 28, 2008: The Fryeburg Zoning Board of Appeals upheld the 2007 Planning Board decision and denies Nestlé a permit again.

On March 2008: Nestlé sued the town of Fryeburg again in the Maine Superior Court, Nestle Waters North America Inc v. Inhabitants of the Town of Fryeburg and Western Maine Residents for Rural Living.

On July 31, 2008: Judge Cole of the Maine Superior Court denied Nestlé a permit.

On September 25, 2008: Nestlé Waters North America Inc brings suit again to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. Nestlé Waters North America Inc appellant v. Town of Fryeburg, Maine and Western Maine Residents for Rural Living, appellees.

As of October 17, 2008: The Supreme Court is awaiting the brief of Western Maine Residents for Rural Living.

At StopNestleWaters.org, we have to ask – is Nestle avaricious beyond all reason, or are they simply inept?

In Fryeburg, they’ve created a PR problem that simply isn’t going to go away – at least not as long as they’re suing the town in an attempt to force their truck loading station on it.

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21,000 Reasons Nestle May Beat the Citizens of Fryeburg

If a Hollywood movie was ever to be made about Nestle Waters of North America, the tiny town of Fryeburg, ME would nicely fill the role of a compelling underdog – the tiny town that stood up to the predatory multinational.

Nestle has sued the rural town of Fryeburg five times in an attempt to install a truck loading station in a residential area, and while Nestle never intended to do so, they’ve created an Alamo-esque rallying point for those fighting Nestle’s depredations in other areas.

They’ve also created $39,000 in legal costs, $21,000 of which need to be paid off. From the Water in the News blog:

At each and every board or court appearance (click for Timeline), Western Maine Residents for Rural Living has countered Nestlé’s legal army with reply briefs. We are forced by Nestlé to engage them in this arena which by both its complexities, costs and time would be overwhelming for most. We have stood our ground and have stayed the course. We have been fortunate to have one of the best law firms in Maine representing us, Verrill Dana PLLC and its partner Atty. Scott Anderson. Forty months of litigation and no permit issued.

Western Maine Residents for Rural Living have done much more than just fight a local land use issue. Their persistence has brought attention to a nationwide battle with Nestlé. Momentum, resolve, persistence and commitment–whatever you call it–Fryeburg has demonstrated it can be done.

In the past, I’ve suggested that Nestle’s bizarre, over-the-top
string of lawsuits against Fryeburg weren’t so much designed to win a
legal challenge as they were to bankrupt those opposing their
residentially sited truck loading zone – and to serve as a warning to
other small towns thinking of opposing Nestle.

Today, I stick by that analysis, and fear that unless some money is quickly raised, Nestle could win this one.

If you want to help, this is the contact information posted in the original blog post:

Checks should be made payable to: “Verrill Dana, PLLC”
Please note in the memo: “WMRRL”

Mail to:
T.Scott Gamwell
30 Hemlock Bridge Road
Fryeburg, Maine 04037

Thank you. Contacts: (207) 935-3811 and librarianef@hotmail.com (Emily Fletcher, Fryeburg).

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Nestle Denies Reality; Ad Pretends It Hasn’t Sued Fryeburg Multiple Times

In an ad run in the Bridgton News (no online edition), Nestle Waters of North America tries to pretend its lawsuit and four subsuquent appeals (including a hearing before the Maine State Supreme Court) against the rural town of Fryeburg

I recently posted a story about a residents’ meeting in Denmark, where Nestle’s well permit is up for renewal. (Denmark is the source of the water Nestle wants to pump to a loading station in a residential section of Fryeburg, the permit for which has been repeatedly denied by the town).

Nestle – unhappy with the growing opposition to their wells in Denmark – bought an ad in the newspaper, suggesting they alone had a grasp of the “facts,” while opposition information was “fiction.”

To get a sense of their grasp of the facts, look at #5 in the ad below:

To paraphrase Nestle, “the facts are” that Fletcher’s statement is accurate, if a little forward-looking. Nestle’s permit for a loading station was first approved by Fryeburg’s planning commission, but then rejected because there’s no way you can pretend 100 heavy truck trips per day wouldn’t have a substantial impact on a residential area.

Nestle’s lawsuit and four subsuquent appeals – one of which was argued in front of the Maine Supreme Court – can’t be construed as anything but suing the town five times, and as Fletcher noted, another appeal is likely.

Finally, in #6 in the ad above, Nestle characterized opposition to their loading station as being the work of a “vocal minority” – an assertion which ignores the moratorium on bulk water export passed by Freyburg’s voters 467 to 304.

By what math does 467 to 304 work out to a minority?

Perhaps in Nestle’s corporate world, pretending something isn’t happening is good enough, but rural, small town America has a little more common sense than that.

If any of our Fryeburg/Denmark area readers has feedback about the ad’s reception in either town, feel free to post it in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.

We leave you with YouTube video of Nestle/Poland Spring’s argument before the Maine State Supreme Court, where they apparently suggest their right to grow market share supercedes local control of water, planning, noise and traffic:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glKQlsTdrFk[/youtube]

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Residents Oppose Renewal of Nestle/Poland Spring Extraction Permit in Denmark

Nestle’s legal bullying of the tiny Maine town of Fryeburg has taken on an almost Alamo-esque patina; activists around the country point to Fryeburg whenever Nestle’s operatives verbalize Nestle’s “good corporate neighbor” spin.

Fryeburg’s planning commission has repeatedly turned away Nestle’s attempt to build a 100 truck-trips-per-day loading station in an East Fryeburg residential area, yet Nestle simply fires up another lawsuit or appeal.

With opponents roughly $20,000 in debt, and Nestle’s fifth lawsuit against the town pending, it’s possible Nestle’s within a stone’s throw of getting its loading station… unless the nearby town of Denmark revokes Nestle’s permit to extract water.

Opposition to Nestle Appears in Denmark

Nestle/Poland Spring plans to pump water from Denmark wells, then pipe it to the East Fryeburg loading station. With its Fryeburg loading station stalled and its Denmark water extraction permit up for renewal, Nestle’s suddenly facing failure on both fronts.

Residents of Denmark recently gathered to discuss the issue (Nestle’s Mark DuBois also attended), and the Water in the News blog published a detailed report of the emotionally charged meeting:

Anger and a sense of determination prevailed among the nearly 40 people who met last Thursday to discuss action plans ranging from a water mining moratorium to a new ordinance with even stronger restrictions and conditions than the existing ordinance.

What a difference three years makes.

Back in May 2005, local residents were largely silent when multinational Nestle Waters asked for permission to dig a well and extract water to be pumped underground to a silo in East Fryeburg. The silo would serve as a tanker-truck filling station to send the water on its way to a bottling facility. Selectmen issued the permit, and residents passed a tough ordinance a year later giving the town the right to shut the extraction operation down if it was shown to be harming the underlying aquifer.

Since then, Fryeburg has been torn apart by the battle between “pro-” and “anti-Nestle” forces and a series of lawsuits and appeals, the latest of which awaits a hearing in the Maine Supreme Court. Work has yet to begin on the 40-foot tall silo. Meanwhile, residents of Shapleigh passed a six-month moratorium on Sept. 24 that stopped Nestle in its tracks and gained them national attention.

The Fryeburg situation can only be described in terms of disgrace, and it’s fast becoming an albatross around Nestle’s neck. The loading station delivers little in the way of economic return to the small town, yet the town’s suffering the kind of social strife and polarization that always seems to accompany Nestle’s attentions.

Nestle’s operatives are skilled at framing local disputes about Nestle bottling plants in “pro-business vs no-business” terms, even when it’s clear the issue is one of local control over resources vs handing control to a Swiss multinational.

A good example is this passage, where Jim Wilfong – former state representative Jim Wilfong, who founded a group called H20 for Maine – spoke about the town’s options (that local control thing again). Read on, and you’ll see Nestle’s operative attempt to derail the meeting:

His [ed: Wilfong] tone was even and measured — that is, until Mark Dubois, Poland Spring’s Natural Resource Manager, raised his hand.

“So you want to take control?” asked Dubois. “It sounds to me like a property rights issue.”

“That’s the way you see it,” Wilfong replied. “Some people don’t like it that our culture and our environment are being changed” “by Nestle’s activities in western Maine.

That prompted Emily Fletcher of Fryeburg to say that “we’re really grassroots people trying to confront what we see as a threat. We don’t have control, and I’m angry.”

She said Nestle” has changed the social environment in its 10 years in Fryeburg, pitting friends and families against each other.

“It is a highly charged political atmosphere,” she said, where people have been “put in office to support Nestle’s agenda.” When the Fryeburg Planning Board ruled against the company’s silo plans after it was remanded back to them by the Oxford County Superior Court, Nestle” once again appealed the decision.

Now they’re about to appeal our court case for the sixth time. I think that’s dirty politics[ed: emphasis added],” said Fletcher. “We have so far succeeded but we have succeeded because we haven’t failed,” she added, and urged Denmark residents to educate themselves if they want to be effective.

“I don’t think they understand or really care what we think — they are here for the resource,” Wilfong said.

Should Denmark prove successful at squelching Nestle/Poland Spring’s extraction permit, then it’s possible Fryeburg’s nightmare would end (though Nestle would likely wield its legal bludgeon against Denmark too).

How quickly the rifts in the town heal are another matter – one of little concern to Nestle.

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The Top Six Reasons Why Small Communities Can’t Trust Nestle Waters, Part II

In Part I of “The Top Six Reasons Why Small Communities Can’t Trust Nestle Waters,” I looked at Nestle Waters of North America’s less savory behaviors, including their tendency to:

  • #1. Negotiate deals in private
  • #2. Use aggressive (and questionable) legal tactics to bend small towns to their will
  • #3. Ignore environmental studies and impacts – even as they proclaim their environmental sensitivity

Sadly, that was only the first half of the list; cataloging Nestle’s least-attractive behaviors required two articles. What’s left?

#4. Nestle Promises Jobs They Don’t Deliver

Nestle’s only real lever in its negotiations with rural communities is the promise of jobs. To poor, economically depressed rural communities, jobs are like red meat to a starving lion, and Nestle’s promises of employment often turn the tide in favor of their bottling plants.

But how real are those promises?

The St. Petersburg Times newspaper delivered a crippling blow to Nestle’s credibility when it reported on the Nestle bottling plant in Madison County, Florida (Madison Blue Springs).

Nestle promised Madison county 300 jobs, but never employed more than 250, and now only employs 205 – 46 of which aren’t even from Florida.

The state did much more than fight to get Nestle the right to pump as much water as possible from the spring.

As an added incentive for Nestle, the state approved a tax refund of up to $1.68-million for the Madison bottling operation. To date, Nestle has received two refunds totaling $196,000 and requested a third tax refund.

Nestle had promised to create 300 jobs over five years. The most people it has ever employed was about 250. The number dropped to 205 late last year, 46 of them from Georgia, which Nestle defends as common for a work force along a state line.

The net result is half the jobs promised to the state of Florida actually accrued to the state of Florida. To get those jobs, that state struck an awful bargain: they approved a tax refund, and also overrode the recommendation of the local water management district scientists, giving Nestle the right to take 1.47-million gallons a day from the drought-stricken spring (at its lowest recorded flows ever) instead of the 400,000-gallons a day sought by staff.

The Negative Economics of Water Bottling

Nestle’s proposed one-million sq.ft. water bottling plant in McCloud (the largest bottling plant in the USA, and thankfully one that’s not being built right now) promised 240 jobs, but an EcoNorthwest economic study looked hard at the positive AND negative economic effects of the plant.

The results weren’t encouraging for the tiny town of McCloud. From the report synopsis:

  • The Nestle proposed facility would impose costs and obligations on the community that would likely outweigh the benefits.
  • People from outside McCloud would likely fill higher paying jobs. (Pages: 35-40)
  • Nestle will not improve unemployment rates or overall employment levels in McCloud or Siskiyou
    County
  • Nestle may cause losses of other jobs, firms, and residents in the county, thereby offsetting the 1 million annually in property taxes they might eventually generate.
  • The facility would likely displace current employment at existing firms and employment that would have materialized in the future thus the net job increase at full build out is likely closer to 70 jobs.
  • Hidden costs of truck traffic include traffic accidents, congestion, air pollution, negative health effects, increased road maintenance, and possibly the need for additional law-enforcement services. (Pages: 54- 57)

Some residents of McCloud were clearly hoping the Nestle bottling plant would revive the fortunes of this former mill town, but with $9/hour jobs going begging at two other nearby water bottling plants – and most of the better-paying jobs typically going to outside management teams brought in by Nestle – the economic boon many are hoping for isn’t likely to happen.

#5. Nestle Recommends Consultants to Towns With Conflict of Interest Issues

Nestle’s modus operandi in small towns often involves “helping” small towns with recommendations for “experts” burdened by conflicts of interest.

For example, Clinton, Maine’s Board of Selectman – already in trouble with a citizen’s group for negotiating with Nestle in secret and destroying a signed memorandum of understanding – used a Nestle-recommended hydrologist to review a project and make supposedly unbiased, science-based recommendations to the board.

From the Worcester Telegram:

They have also been asked whether they consider destruction of the signed memorandum of agreement to be advisable or appropriate; why they hired the same hydrogeologist that Nestlé uses (even though not for this project); why they would use this hydrogeologist to review records and data of the hydrogeologist’s own client (Nestlé), for purposes of advising another of its client’s (Sterling)

As you can see, the hydrologist worked with Nestle on other projects, reviewed only Nestle data, and had his fee paid out of an escrow account established by Nestle.

That escrow account was also expected to fund the production a legal opinion about whether a zoning change was needed to allow the Nestle project, and get that zoning change written if necessary.

Taken as a whole, these actions are akin to the police relying on criminals to report the details of their own crimes; the conflicts of interest abound, and citizens can hardly be expected to trust the information, conclusions and contracts drawn from these machinations.

#6. Nestle Interferes With Local Politics and Splits Communities With Divisive Tactics

Of all Nestle’s tactics, this is probably the least savory, and because examples abound, this has become our longest topic.

After all, pitting residents of a small community against each other is a despicable-yet-effective tactic – one that’s played out time and time again wherever Nestle arrives.

Part of the problem is Nestle’s attempts to negotiate contracts in secret, then rush approval before citizen review can take place. In the town of McCloud, this had the effect of electrifying opponents of the negotiated-in-secret deal.

Outraged that the McCloud Services District signed Nestle’s rapacious contract without public review, residents soon discovered just how bad the contract was – and the town quickly divided into two factions.

In an International Herald Tribune article, Curtis Knight of CalTrout perceptively said:

“It’s the issue in town,” said Curtis Knight, the Mount Shasta area manager of California Trout, a wild fishery conservation group. “You know, who are you and are you pro-Nestle or are you anti-Nestle? It’s really been a wedge through town, and I think it’s unfortunate.”

Nestle furthered this split when it funded a slate of Pro-Nestle candidates for the McCloud Services District Board election in 2006 (the entity that negotiated the Nestle contract). Nestle slyly maintained a “hands off” policy right up until the day before the election, when they wrote a check to the Pro-Nestle slate for $2500.

The timing was critical; this allowed Nestle to state they were steering clear of the election right up until it occurred, the kind of shrewd political maneuver little seen in small town elections.

The total spent spent by the slate was only $3680, so Nestle’s $2500 contribution had a big impact; all three Pro-Nestle candidates won election to the board.

To a multinational bent on securing profits from a rapacious water contract, $2500 doesn’t even register as petty cash. To a small town trying to come to grips with a proposal to build the largest water bottling plant in the world, it feels like millions.

Since then, Nestle – facing a storm of protest over its inadequate EIR, potential project impacts and the reality of high fuel costs – backed out of the original contract and is seeking a new contract.

Unfortunately, the divisive rhetoric from its local operative has also ratcheted up a notch. Speaking in a recent interview in the Mount Shasta Herald (a local weekly paper), Nestle spokesperson Dave Palais played the “outside agitator” card when asked an unrelated question about the California Attorney General’s opposition to Nestle’s wholly incomplete Environmental Impact Report:

The real point, the important point, is not that the AG wrote the letter. It’s that a large portion of the opposition to the project comes from outside McCloud. Non-permanent residents. I’m not saying that’s all of the opposition. Some local residents do oppose it. But a large part of the financial and political influence being used in coming from outside of McCloud.

Palais’ counterpart in Maine – Mark DuBois – echoed the eerily divisive screed:

Much of the opposition, he said, is coming from organizations from out of state [ed: emphasis added] that are concerned about global water privatization or use and sale of water in arid or dry climates that have scarce renewable water supplies.

In the context of their local battles, both statements are largely untrue, and wholly divisive.

Opposition to the McCloud contract was spearheaded by two local citizens groups, and CalTrout – a California coldwater fisheries-based advocacy group – has every right to challenge Nestle’s clear lack of environmental concern for one of California’s Blue Ribbon trout streams (Nestle performed no flow studies downstream of their proposed plant).

Both Palais’ and Dubois’ statements are clearly designed to foster resentment among residents, and they’re a good example of Nestle at its divisive worst.

Of course, the irony of either statement can’t be ignored; Palais himself lives an hour away from the town of McCloud, and Nestle is a multinational headquartered in Switzerland.

So we’re forced to ask the obvious: Who, exactly, is the non-local unduly influencing local politics?

Community of Fryeburg Split by Cost of Nestle Lawsuits

In Fryeburg, Maine, one activist spoke about the deterioration of relationships in the small town as it deals with Nestle’s repeated attempts to force a tanker loading station on the town’s planning commission – a station that will run 250 trucks per day through a residential area and offers little in the way of economic benefit to the town:

“People are afraid to speak up; relationships that have existed for 50-60 years in Fryeburg have been busted by the Nestle issue. If this precedent is set – allowing a loading 100 truck trips per day, 365 days per year – then the integrity of every residential neighborhood in Maine is in jeopardy.”

The result of all Nestle’s lawsuits and appeals on the residents of the town?

“People are tired of the fight; they don’t want to talk about water and they’re sick of the issue.”

With the coalition fighting Nestle’s loading station already $20,000 in debt (an enormous sum in an economically depressed rural area), it’s possible Nestle will accomplish its goal – winning the right to run 100 truck trips per day through a residential neighborhood through sheer force of legal attrition.

If that happens, residents will be reminded of their loss – as Nestle’s 50 trucks first enter then leave their neighborhoods every day.

Internet, Media Bringing Nestle’s Questionable Practices to Light

In the past, Nestle’s aggressive (and questionable) tactics received little attention in the national media, and local citizen’s groups had no way to connect and share information.

That meant they could employ the same untrustworthy tactics in one small community after another, secure in the knowledge there would never be a wholesale, nationwide accounting of their actions.

The growth of Internet accessibility in rural areas has changed that dynamic; activists in small communities can communicate and share information. Search engines now speed the retrieval of information from other locales; when Nestle shows up at a town, it’s likely to find people waiting for it – people armed with information about the secret meetings, rushed contracts, lack of environmental review, punishing legal challenges, and divisive tactics.

BusinessWeek touched on the power of the Internet in this statement:

Time was when multinationals could arrive in economically depressed communities and pretty much have their way. But in the age of hyper connectedness, residents in McCloud were able to turn their issue into an international sensation. Now Nestle has capitulated. The management lesson: no company can afford to go forward with projects like these without engaging ALL stakeholders, not just supporters. Yes, this is David versus Goliath. But the Davids now have megaphones.

Nestle’s efforts to build new water bottling plants and tap new sources of water have been stymied as of late, and in one sense, it’s an opportunity for them to stop dealing to small rural communities from the bottom of the deck.

Whether they do so – or simply retrench and employ a new arsenal of questionable, untrustworthy tactics – is entirely up to them.

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