Category Archives: Legal Assault

What Happens When Nestle Enters a Rural Community (Statement from Terry Swier of Michigan)

Terry Swier of Michigan has experienced Nestle Waters of North America’s predatory approach to rural communities firsthand; the Swiss multinational threatened a SLAPP suit (an intimidation lawsuit) aimed at those opposing them (eerily similar to their attempt to subpoena the private financial records of local opposed to their McCloud contract).

From the Corporate Accountability Web site comes this statement from Ms. Swier – which should be required reading by the citizens of any town on the receiving end of Nestle’s attentions:

Statement from Terry Swier, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, at the Nestle Waters North America Headquarters

I am Terry Swier, the President of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC), a grassroots environmental group with 2,000 members. I am here today to tell Nestlé that MCWC is committed to continue the fight to protect the waters of the Great Lakes Basin for our children and generations to come.

Our lives have changed over the past eight years, since Nestlé came to Michigan with plans to pump 720,000 gallons per day of spring water from a private hunting preserve, pipe it to its plant, bottle it, and ship it out of the Great Lakes Basin for its own profit. Nestlé’s pumping has lowered a stream, two lakes, and adjacent wetlands. Nestlé continues to pump at high rates during periods of lower rainfall and recharge. And this is the just the tip of Nestlé Ice Mountain:

• MCWC has taken Nestlé to court to prove that water belongs to the people. MCWC vs. Nestlé is heading back to the courts in July of this to ask for adjustment of Nestlé’s pumping levels to prevent further environmental impacts. Nestlé has challenged the right of citizen groups, like ours, to bring lawsuits to protect land that is not on our own property, even though ecological damage affects us all. This is not about just bottled water. This is a battle over who will own and control the water. To date, MCWC has spent more than a $1,000,000 in court costs and lawyer and environmental experts’ fees. Nestlé is determined to run us dry in more ways than one and no amount of talk about being a ‘good neighbor’ will change that fact.

• To compound matters, Nestlé hired a polling firm to call targeted residents and ask questions about my leadership qualities and character.

• The corporation has also sent private investigators to homes of people who had signed MCWC’s referendum asking intimidating questions about whether they understood what they were signing, most likely with the hope of invalidating the referendum.

• What’s more, Nestlé threatened a potential Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation; know as a SLAPP suit, against my son and others who spoke out publicly about the company’s bad practices.

• And the corporation has also leveraged policymakers, actively pursuing and being granted tax breaks, grants, and numerous favors in spite of its poor environmental record and its exportation of water from Michigan.

With Nestlé the story is always the same; the only difference is the address.

News Flash from Maine: Town of Fryeburg Loses Right to Local Zoning Control to… Nestle/Poland Springs

I just got off the phone with a resident of Fryeburg – the town that’s been under legal assault by Nestle/Poland Spring for the last six years. The news isn’t good.

After a lawsuit and four appeals, Nestle’s legions of legal talent finally succeeded in overturning the citizen appeal of the town’s original planning commission permit (written largely by a lobbyist for the trucking industry who later recused himself from the board and was caught passing information to Nestle via email).

You can download a .pdf file of the court’s decision here (look for the Nestle vs Fryeburg cast in mid-page).

I can’t tell you if this is the end of the road for Fryeburg’s citizen partisans, but I can tell you that where Nestle Waters goes, local control of water, roads and zoning seemingly disappears. More to come.

Bottled Water Industry Aggressively Reacts to Declining Sales With Legal Assault, Lobbying… Spying?

With bottled water sales falling (fast) worldwide, the bottled water industry is reacting, though none more actively than Nestle Waters of North America.

A lengthy article written by the Polaris Institute outlines the industry’s response, which range from increased advertising, PR/lobbying onslaughts, attacks on the quality of public water and legal bullying (yes, even spying).

We documented the interview where Nestle’s CEO Kim Jeffries finally did what the bottled water industry won’t admit it does; cast doubt on the quality of public water supplies, playing the “Fear” card.

What to see what else is happening?

Bottled Water Industy Faces Downward Spiral:

These are desperate times indeed for bottled water companies. Some industry analysts are already predicting the sell off of bottled water assets by Groupe Danone while Nestlé has publicly announced that it is slashing investment in their bottled water brands. However, these difficult times do not mean that these companies are giving up. On the contrary, in the case of Nestlé the company is resorting to facing the bottled water backlash head on through advertising and other, more aggressive means.

To deal with this well organized backlash Nestlé Waters North America has not resorted to the ‘ethical marketing’ angle, instead it has ‘gone negative’ by disparaging tap water, using television ads and newspaper advertisements, threatening lawsuits, aggressively lobbying city councillors and employing public relations and communications firms to push their narrative into the media. Looking at Nestlé’s track record will show that this company and the industry in general, is desperately trying to hold onto their bottled water customers.

We invite you to read the entire article, which includes an engrossing reference to Nestle’s apparent hiring of a “security” firm to infiltrate a Swiss-based group of activists.

Not to be missed.

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Nestle’s Legal Assault Pays Off: “The fear is that other towns have been taken to court by Nestle…”

Nestle’s long had a reputation for using its powerful legal resources to bend small rural towns to its will.

When they lose, they simply revamp their arguments and come back for another round, and if you think that’s simply stubborness, consider this water-rights ordinance exchange from Maine’s site:

Joan Mooney, Chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen and a supporter of prohibiting extraction, said the issue is having an ordinance that could stand up to legal scrutiny.

“The fear is that other towns have been taken to court by Nestlé (parent company of Poland Spring) because their laws have holes in them,” Mooney said. “The Ordinance Review Committee can write a regulatory one or one that’s rights-based. The latter doesn’t have any holes in it.”

Town Planner Mike Huston raised questions about the rights-based approach, however.

“When people have talked about this, it’s like the ultimate thing that keeps you out of court and prevents a company from running roughshod over the town,” he said. “But if I’m a large company and I want water and you put roadblocks in my way, I’m going to court.

Apprently, Nestle’s legal bullying is working; communities are discussing ordinances based not on what they want or how to retain local control, but from the perspective of what might and might not land them in legal hot water with Nestle Waters of North America.

If you’re a multinational whose concern for local communities extends only as far as their contribution to your bottom line, then using extraordinary legal means to make sure locals are too fearful to challenge you is probably an effective tactic (though a morally bankrupt one).

Read the entire story here: Restrictions on water extraction debated in Wells.