Category Archives: Maine

Wells Following Examples of Other Maine Towns With Water Extraction Ban?

Rights-based water ordinances have yet to face a court challenge (and we’re expecting one at some point), but their “give the right to decide back to the people” message is certainly resonating with small town residents.

It appears that the town of Wells is set to follow the example of Shapleigh and Newfield, both of whom passed water-extraction ordinances which were aimed largely at Nestle/Poland Spring’s water extraction activities.

Maine town eyes ban on water extraction

Supporters of a measure to prevent companies such as Poland Spring from extracting groundwater in Wells are presenting a ballot proposal to the town’s selectmen.

Organizers say they have gathered signatures from more than 800 Wells residents in support of putting the measure on the June 9 ballot.

In many small towns, elected officials have not done a good job representing the interests of townsfolk (the original Nestle contract in McCloud is a prime example), and residents simply want the right to decide for themselves.

This is not good news for Nestle/Poland Spring, who cannot be happy to see rights-based water ordinances popping up like spring daffodils.

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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.

Second Maine Town Enacts Water Extraction Ordinance,

A second Maine town has enacted a rights-based water extraction ordinance (Shapleigh was the first); now Newfield passed a ban on a vote of 228 to 146.

From WCSH6.com – Newfield Passes Ban On Large Scale Water Extraction

NEWFIELD (NEWS CENTER) — The town of Newfield is now the second in Maine to ban large-scale water extraction.

Saturday’s vote was 228 in favor of the new ordinance and 146 against. The vote is a reaction to interest from Poland Spring Water and its parent company, Nestle, in pumping water from an aquifer shared by Newfield and Shapleigh.

Shapleigh voted for the same ban on water extraction two weeks ago. However, there is some concern that that ordinance could be overturned in court. As a result, townspeople voted on a different ordinance at town meeting Saturday that would lay out what a water company would have to do to be able to extract water from the aquifer.

While Shapleigh’s Selectmen are making noises about the legality of the Shapleigh ordinance, the real questions revolve around Nestle/Poland Spring’s willingness to step into yet another damaging legal fight (one wonders what their five suits against Fryeburg have cost their already-tarnished reputation).

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More on the Shapleight “Rights-Based” Water Extraction Ordinance

This from the Portland Press Herald outlines the basic clash between citizens and their own Board of Selectmen, who apparently haven’t been listening to their citizens. You can read the entire article at Shapleigh closes tap for water companies:

During a special town meeting Saturday morning, residents voted 114 to 66 to adopt the ban drafted by Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources, which had opposed Poland Spring’s efforts to test, draw, bottle and market the town’s water.

The ban had been opposed by the town’s Board of Selectmen, which had favored instead a set of regulations on drawing water in the town that will be on the warrant for the regular town meeting on March 14.

“The problem in Shapleigh is that all three selectpeople want Nestle (Poland Spring’s parent company) in here,” said Shelly Gobeille, one of the leaders of POWWR. “This vote says they can’t come in.”

Will we see yet another attempt by Nestle/Poland Spring to bypass local control? Given the questions being asked by other small towns about Nestle/Poland Spring’s legal activities in Maine’s small towns, do they dare? Do they care?

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Shapleigh Residents Just Say “NO” to Nestle/Poland Spring: Pass Water Extraction Ordinance

I’m sure this is just the beginning of the story – Nestle’s willingness to use a legal bludgeon to ensure profits is well known – but the residents of Shapleigh have overwhelmingly voted to ban water extraction in the tiny Maine town (from the Journal Tribune):

SHAPLEIGH — Residents Saturday approved a rights-based ordinance that prohibits water extraction by corporations.

The vote was 114 to 66 and came 25 minutes into the Town Meeting – and only seven minutes after the call for the vote.

The vote makes Shapleigh the only Maine community to have approved a rights-based ordinance. Residents of Barnstead, N.H., passed a similar ordinance in 2007.

The question now: Will it be challenged?

Immediately following the vote, Selectman Bill Hayes seemed to suggest that selectmen might issue a challenge, but when confronted by a voter, said the board would seek legal advice.

“We’ll seek advice from counsel,” said Hayes. “If the ordinance isn’t enforcable, it puts us in a pretty precarious position as how to proceed.”

Both the town’s lawyer and a Maine Municipal Association attorney have said the rights-based ordinance is unconstitutional and against Maine law.

Selectman Mike Perro read a statement from town attorney Ron Bourque just before the vote, which said the ordinance was illegal, unconstitutional and unenforcable.

Martin Bretton, of the citizens group Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources, read an opinion from the group’s attorney, Lynne Williams of Bar Harbor, who is also a candidate for governor as a Green Independent. Williams noted that the ordinance hasn’t been tested in court so, in her opinion, to say it is illegal or unconstitutional isn’t in an attorney’s purview.

Passage of the ordinance is a victory for the citizens group. When it approached selectmen with a petition last year to have the rights-based ordinance on the annual Town Meeting ballot, the group’s request was rejected, based on the lawyers’ opinions.

Town selectman fought the adoption of the ordinance every step of the way, though residents were clearly unhappy with a proposed “extraction-friendly” ordinance written by a consultant (referred to board by Nestle/Poland Spring).

There’s little doubt that Nestle Waters/Poland Spring – in an effort to forestall the adoption of similar ordinances elsewhere – would be willing to use its heavy legal hammer to turn back the ordinance — and create a little fear and doubt in the minds of others considering a similar action.

Good luck to the residents of Shapleigh, who voted to retain local control of one of their most critical resources.

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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 Seacoastonline.com 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.

Maine Writer Asks: Can Denmark Residents Trust Nestle to Stop When Asked?

Some may believe that water should be harvested, but it’s important to proceed cautiously when giving away our most valuable natural resource: water.  Maine is blessed with an abundance of clean water, but it is not a unlimited resource that can satisfy the worlds ballooning demand for natural spring water.

Poland Springs may have a long history in Maine, but Poland Spring’s parent company Nestles is a international multi billion dollar company which main concern is to use a region’s water for profit.  While Nestles reaps the profits, local communities and the environment are paying the price.

The citizens of Denmark did not vote to sell water to Poland Spring and will not get PAID for the water that Nestles extracts.  Our Selectmen voted to approve Nestle’s permit for mass water extraction as the state of Maine is one of only eight states that still practices absolute dominion rules and does not have laws that would help a small town protect it’s ground water from mass water extraction.

Denmark residents did overwhelmingly pass a vote for a mass water extraction moritorium in order that our town leaders would have time to develop an ordinance that would help protect our ground water.  At this time the ordinance is a document to insure that water extraction is being adequately monitored.  The ordinance does not protect Denmark citizens if Nestles chooses to locate a pumping station in our town or if the action levels prove to be inaccurate.  Can Denmark citizens trust that Nestle will stop pumping water when asked, when there is so much money to be lost and no penalties that can be imposed?  Or would Nestles fall back on their tried and true defense that it would be a hardship to the corporation and it’s customers if they stopped pumping water from the Denmark well.

How can Nestles be considered environmentally clean? What is green about making, filling, transporting and landfilling billions of plastic bottles?  Our water supply may be healthy now.  But, can anyone truly predict how our surface water will be effected, once Nestle starts pumping water at both locations from the aquifer that Fryeburg and Denmark share?  True, Route 302 is a heavily traveled road, but is that reason for Nestles to locate a pumping station in a low impact zone on a hazardous section of that road?

In closing, the anti Poland Spring crowd are not the ones that have divided our towns.  Nestles has a pattern of using propaganda and lawsuits, pitting residents against one another in order to gain control of local water supplies.  Please continue to have lively discussions regarding the possible effects that mass water extraction could have on our beautiful Lakes Regions area.  Be sure to make an informed decision regarding Nestles and mass water extraction and try to understand why I am cautious in giving Nestle the right to pilfer our water for profit.

Visit DefendingWaterInMaine.org, WaterDividendTrust.com, StopNestleWaters.org, watch the movie “Flow”, read the books “Thirst, the Corporate Theft of our Water” and “Bottlemania.”

Donna Fournier
Denmark, Maine

Register Your Thoughts: Letter: People POWWER (Feb. 12, 2009)

This thoughtful letter to the editor draws a bead on the water ordinance proposed by Shapleigh’s Board of Selectmen – an ordinance written by a Nestle-referred consultant.

It falls far short of the ordinance desired by the citizens of Shapleigh when they voted for a water extraction moratorium:

The “Ordinance Governing Water Extraction,” proposed for the Shapleigh voters to act upon (available at www.shapleigh.net ) boils down to an application permit. Once any company has met, or promises to meet the requirements of this ordinance, the town would not have the legal right to refuse the applicant permission to extract water.

The town relies upon the applicant to supply information, without independent verification. Any state-certified hydrologist working for a company need only tell the “truth,” not necessarily the “whole truth.” Pertinent facts can be omitted or skewed by the inclusion of extraneous information.

Also of note, is that under the application “conditions of permit” the applicant is given an unspecified amount of time to show adherence to the stated requirements. In truth, some of the requirements would require long term pumping at high capacity just to satisfy the information being asked.

Once again, the public’s desire to participate in the future disposition of their own water supply is on the verge of falling victim to bad public process.

You can read the rest of this powerful letter to the editor via Register Your Thoughts: Letter: People POWWER (Feb. 12, 2009).

Poland Spring/Nestle Facing Challenges in Maine (Wonders Why??)

With Nestle/Poland Springs facing growing opposition in Maine, you knew the self-righteous whining was sure to follow. And sure enough, it has.

From the Portland Press Herald: Challenges piling up for Poland Spring

After 146 years of doing business in Maine, Poland Spring is fighting battles on three fronts these days — over test wells in Shapleigh, a proposed tax that would cost the company $7 million a year, and a state Supreme Court case over a pumping station in Fryeburg.

Actually, there are a couple more fights in progress, and that’s ignoring the looming fight over truck/traffic issues that will eventually (mark my words) come to the fore.

Still, that doesn’t prevent Nestle’s operative on the ground from voicing a regrettably amusing lament:

“Where have we done harm or where have we caused issues that have caused people to take drastic steps like this?” asked Mark Dubois, natural resource director for Poland Spring, a subsidiary of Nestle Waters North America.

We’re going to speak slowly here so our friend Mark can follow.

Mark, your company is slow-roasting the town of Fryeburg with your five-suits-and-counting legal assault (and because you can afford expensive attorneys, your predatory multinational could easily strip the town of control over its own development).

In several instances you’ve apparently tried to cut water extraction deals before citizens could notice.

In fact, I compiled a list of reasons why small towns don’t trust Nestle (though you’ve created new reasons you frisky corporate types, and I haven’t updated the list yet), and perhaps you’d like to review that list here.

Still, it’s hard not return to the subject of Fryeburg, where your predatory company acts as if it’s entitled to build a truck loading station in a residential despite what the town’s planning commission and citizens seem to want.

In fact, Mark, I’m going to make a bold prediction here; if Nestle wins it suit and forces itself on the tiny town of Fryeburg, your troubles in Maine – and I say this with a great deal of sincerity – are only beginning.

Maine Water Group POWWR Wants Rights Based Ordinance Put to Vote

Maine water rights group POWWR – unhappy with a Nestle-friendly ordinance (written for the Shapleigh Board of Selectmen by a Nestle-referred consultant) – presented a petition calling for the town to vote on POWWR’s own rights-based ordinance:

To meet or not to meet is the question confronting Shapleigh selectmen after being presented with a petition to vote on banning water extraction.

Shapleigh Board of Selectmen Chairman Bill Hayes said Monday the board is waiting for an opinion from town attorney Ronald Bourque about how to proceed.

The issue was forced when members of Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources, or POWWR, presented a petition to Shapleigh Town Clerk Joanne Rankin calling for a town meeting to allow residents to vote on the “rights-based” ordinance drafted by the organization.

Rankin said Jan. 30 that all signatures on the petition have been certified.

The petition for the town meeting came after members of POWWR rejected an invitation to participate in a Jan. 28 workshop to resolve differences between the proposed ordinances to regulate or ban water extraction.

In the wake of Nestle’s attempt to extract water from a nearby aquifer – and what many felt was an attempt to rush the town into a deal by selectmen – Shapleigh residents have already passed a 180-day moratorium on commercial water extraction, and many want a rights-based ordinance put into law.

Selectmen refused to even place POWWR’s ordinance on the ballot, suggesting it violates the state’s constitution, while POWWR members say the consultant-written ordinance is sipmly too weak:

“I don’t trust these big corporations,” Manville said about Nestle, owners of Poland Spring. He also worried about damage to roads because of increased truck traffic.

Hayes said he has not made up his mind on whether Poland Spring should be allowed to withdraw water for bottling. He said he is concerned international trade agreements might override local ordinances governing extraction because Poland Spring is a subsidiary of the Swiss-owned Nestle.

In a Jan. 27 letter to Shapleigh selectmen, POWWR members called the regulating water extraction ordinance “weak,” especially as it made no provisions for the rate of extraction, hours of operation and traffic flow.

You can read the whole article here: Register Your Thoughts: Group tries to force water vote (Feb. 5, 2009).

Maine Residents Detail the Hidden Cost of Nestle/Poland Spring Bottling Operation

I received this via email – the story of Maine residents suffering an often-ignored impact of Nestle/Poland Spring’s water bottling plants, and the indifference of Nestle/Poland Spring’s representative.

That impact? Truck traffic. Lots of it. But I’ll let them tell their story:

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I am writing to express our concern regarding more trucks and traffic generated by Poland Springs. We have read with interest the articles regarding the legal battle that Western Maine Residents for Rural Living is fighting against more Poland Springs activity.

Almost all the publicity that we have seen is focused on Fryeburg and its immediate surrounding area. My husband and I live on Rte. 11, Steep Falls, Cumberland County.

When Poland Springs tanker trucks are using this route to the Hollis bottling plant, we have trucks passing at least every half hour, 24 hours a day. In the summer, when I assume water demand is greater, we have at least one truck pass by every 15 minutes, occasionally every 5 or 6 minutes, 24 hours a day.

Our little stretch of road is Main Street in the village of Steep Falls, with a speed limit of 25 mph. Most houses are over 100 years old and are no more than 15 to 20 feet from the narrow road bed. We have no sidewalks. If two trucks cross the bridge in opposite directions it gives them 12″ of clearance on either side.

Often they will air brake to a stop, because two vehicles of that size cannot cross the bridge at the same time with that little clearance. Frequently there are crews out repairing the bridge that was built in 1936.

This has been an ongoing problem for us and our neighbors, as well as our neighbors on Rte. 113. I have had several meetings and phone conversations with Mark Dubois who makes many promises, but rarely delivers.

After three plus years of calling, and tracking the speed of the trucks with our own calibrated speed gun, we have finally gotten most of the Poland Springs trucks to travel at the speed limit, at least when they think someone may be watching. At night, the speed increases.

We are terrified that if Nestle wins this battle, we will have even more truck traffic rattling our houses, cracking our foundations and ceilings and causing a danger to any pedestrian on our street.

We wanted to say that the traffic problem is quite widespread beyond the Fryeburg area, and that other communities are unhappy with the truck traffic as it is now and, of course, the possibility of even more commercial truck traffic on our very narrow rural roads.

If we can be of any help in your battle against the Nestle Corporation increasing its hold on our small towns and lifestyles, please let us know.

Sincerely,
Janet and Michael Blanck

Nestle Water Extraction Subject of Meeting, Legislation in Maine

The ongoing controversy around water extraction in the Kennebunk, ME area continues – this time driven by competing legislation, and a promise from Nestle/Poland Spring that they won’t “bully” their way into the water (a promise their representative promptly breaks when he minimizes Nestle foes).

From the Sanford-Springvale Register:

Although temperatures have rarely been warm enough to thaw it, water remains a hot topic in the New Year in York County.

Specifically, questions on how to regulate commercial water extraction are the basis of a bill submitted by freshman legislator Ed Legg D-Kennebunk, and the subject of a workshop scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 28, by Shapleigh selectmen to consider creating a town ordinance.

Legg would like consumer-owned water utilities to host public hearings and get voter approval to sell water commercially. His bill was introduced in response to the proposed agreement made last summer by the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District to allow Poland Spring Water Company to extract as much as 432,000 gallons of water a day for bottling.

In Shapleigh, the workshop expected to be attended by selectmen Ruth Ham, Michael Perro and Bill Hayes; town attorney Ron Bourque and hydrogeologist John Tewhey; and five members of Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources POWWR will try to find compromise for two competing ordinances for commercial water extraction.

At the end of the article, Nestle’s representative does what Nestle representatives can’t seem to help doing – attempt to cast foes in an unfavorable light by minimizing their numbers and labeling opposition as “noise.”

Should the water be to the company’s liking, Brennan said it would not “bully its way into town,” but added the noise of the opposition to Poland Spring’s presence was not indicative of the number of company foes.

“I don’t think it is a lot of people, but they are very vocal and active,” Brennan said.

With locals from both sides of the issue trying to meet and settle their differences, snarky behavior from a Swiss-based multinational doesn’t seem like the most helpful thing.