Category Archives: sacramento

Save Our Water Sacramento Group Files Administrative Appeal Against Nestle’s Sacramento Plant

Nestle surely thought they’d snuck their Sacramento water bottling plant in through the back door (even a city memo acknowledged the company’s “penchant for secrecy”), but like so many other places, they’re now facing determined opposition.

Sadly for Nestle, the group uncovered a highly questionable permitting process, the appearance of a conflict of interest with a top mayoral advisor, and a development staff seemingly willing to keep the whole project hidden from public view.

In other words, it’s business as usual for Nestle – and at least some of Sacramento’s residents have discovered this sad fact:

Sacramento Press / Group to file Nestlé appeal

In a precursor to any potential legal action, a grassroots organization expects to take its next step in the fight against the Nestlé water-bottling plant by filing an administrative appeal with the city of Sacramento this week.

A Swiss public TV crew is coming to Sacramento Thursday to interview members of the group, Save Our Water Sacramento, which will re-screen the bottled-water documentary “Tapped” at 7 p.m. Thursday at Crest Theatre, 1013 K St.

Afterwards, group leaders will discuss plans to appeal the city’s designation of the Swiss company’s $14-million construction project as ministerial, rather than discretionary. A discretionary designation of a project that could possibly harm the environment triggers a requirement for an environmental assessment under the California Environmental Quality Act. A ministerial designation does not.

The California Environmental Quality Act also requires all administrative remedies be exhausted before a lawsuit can be filed, said Evan Tucker, a Sacramento resident who helps lead Save Our Water Sacramento.

“Those are supposed to exist as an alternative to litigation,” he said. “We can make our case to the city as to why the decision is incorrect.”

The group has been seeking an environmental analysis of the plant since at least September, Tucker said. City Councilmember Kevin McCarty asked the council last month to consider amending the city’s zoning code to immediately require special permits for water-bottling plants, but the proposal was never discussed.

Note the presence of a Swiss film crew; when a French film crew visited McCloud last year, I learned that Nestle’s reputation in Europe is less than sterling.

Surprise.

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More on Nestle’s Hiring of Key Advisor to Sacramento Mayor (and Potential Conflicts of Interest)

From s Sacramento News & Review Editorial Piece:

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Heads turned three days later when it was revealed that Smira had also taken a job working as a consultant for Nestlé Waters, the giant water-bottling company now building a bottling plant in south Sacramento.

So, uh … wait a minute.

There’s little doubt that Smira got the Nestlé job at least partially based on her political connections to the mayor. (Interestingly, he’s the one who greenlighted the water plant without a public hearing.) Like lobbyists, public-relations professionals use their connections to help them produce results for whoever they work for. That’s how it works.

But it’s weird to have key staffers (even volunteer ones) consider moving in and out of local public service this way, since a symbiotic relationship can develop between the two roles—and what’s good for the city is often not what’s good for an industry. That’s why there are anti-revolving-doors laws at the state and national level.

As the Smira case illustrates, it’s past time for Sacramento to take the revolving-door syndrome more seriously and strengthen existing laws that keep this tendency in check.

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Nestle Greases Sacramento Skids: Hires Top Mayoral Advisor

In yet another example of Nestle’s penchant for moving quietly into town and recruiting advocates (long before the public’s aware of anything), the company has apparently – in a fairly naked display of influence buying – hired one of the Sacramento Mayor’s top advisors (found in the Chico News & Review):

Michelle Smira, one of Kevin Johnson’s top volunteer advisors, is leaving city hall, and going to work as a consultant for Nestle.

Smira gave her resignation last week, on October 22, and you can read her resignation letter below.

She told SN&R that she’s giving up her role as an official volunteer advisor to the mayor in order to work on Johnson’s strong mayor initiative. She also said that she was not leaving her City Hall role because of any legal conflict of interest, but because she would not otherwise have time to run her public relations business, MMS Strategies.

It just happens that MMS was hired, over the weekend, by Nestle Waters, to help win hearts and minds, and building permits, for its controversial water bottling plant in South Sacramento.

With the Sacramento mayor being one of the biggest boosters of the Nestle project – apparently willing to trade unlimited amounts of water for a handful of jobs (many of which are going to people outside of Sacramento) – it’s clear that Nestle knows whose skids need to be greased (they certainly did in McCloud & they’re certainly doing it right now in Fryeburg).

via Sacramento News & Review > Blogs > SNOG > Revolving door: One of the Mayor’s top advisors goes to work for Nestle > October 28, 2009.

Bad Public Process Follows Nestle Water Bottling Operation to Sacramento

While their claim to “good corporate citizenship” seemingly doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, it is true that Nestle Waters of North America certainly knows how to slink into town and cut a deal before the public is aware of anything.

It’s happened in almost every small town situation (and we’ve certainly mentioned it before) – and it’s happened again in the case of their Sacramento plant.

Not only was the economic development director apparently aiding the company in keeping their project secret, Nestle also took advantage of a (possibly illegal program) that allowed them to begin work on their plant before the necessary permits were issued (via the Sacramento Bee):

For three years, the city of Sacramento has allowed developers to start work on their projects before receiving formal permits.The practice, covered by the controversial Facilities Permit Program FPP, is now part of an expanding city investigation into the operations of its Community Development Department.

That investigation was launched after city officials said the son of a city councilman improperly allowed new homes to be built in the Natomas flood zone – months before permits for those homes were issued.

Questions about the permit program surfaced this week after city officials determined that construction of a new Nestlé water bottling plant was permitted to start with a verbal approval and authorization letter – and not a formal building permit.

You can read the whole post at Sacramento let developers get jump-start before formal permits – Sacramento News – Local and Breaking Sacramento News | Sacramento Bee.

Nestle “Penchant For Secrecy” Questioned By Sacramento Residents

Nestle’s somewhat sorry reputation is dogging it wherever it goes – resulting in what a Sacramento economic development official called “a penchant for secrecy.”

This quote from a story in the Sacramento Bee nicely sums up a key part of the Nestle playbook:

In one e-mail in May, city Economic Development Manager James Rinehart refers to the company’s “penchant for secrecy.” In another, shortly after the signing of the lease in July, Rinehart wrote that the company still didn’t want its name revealed because it was “working on a press release that takes into account that there are some people opposed to bottled water firms.”

First, let’s be clear: it’s not simply bottled water that’s drawing the ire of activists; it’s Nestle’s predatory behavior elsewhere that is creating across-the-board opposition to the company.

Nestle’s “penchant for secrecy” is a direct result of the company’s “penchant” for doing the wrong thing (whether that’s suing a tiny town, or fighting to keep pumping water even after it’s clear they’re damaging the watershed, or attempting to subpoena the private financial records of opponents, or…)

That Nestle fought so hard to keep their project a secret isn’t a surprise – they’ve followed that practice from the very beginning, and if there’s any justice in the universe, they’re suffering the consequences of their prior actions.

After all, they have nothing to hide beyond that which they’ve done in the past…

Nestle Sacramento Project Served With “Stop Work” Order

Nestle Waters of North America should probably be looking for the “kick me” sign taped to its back; the warm reception it initially received in Sacramento has turned chilly, and in fact, questions about the project and the permits have turned into a “stop work” order issued to the company (via the Sacramento Bee):

The city of Sacramento has ordered food giant Nestlé to stop work on construction of a new bottled water plant in south Sacramento while the City Council decides whether to impose new planning requirements on such facilities.

The council is scheduled to vote tonight on whether to require special permits for beverage bottling plants – which means they would have to go through public hearings before the Planning Commission and council.

Whatever the outcome, Nestle now has to wonder if its reputation – which is not exactly sterling – will continue to dog it even when chasing plants in formerly Nestle-friendly locations. It’s likely, and if anybody’s earned it, its the predatory Nestle.

Nestle’s Raid on Sacramento (Excellent Dan Bacher Op-Ed Piece)

**The following is a Dan Bacher Op-Ed piece about Nestle’s water bottling project in Sacramento**

Oct. 19, 2009 – Councilmember Kevin McCarty again raised the issue of the plan by Nestle to build a new bottling plant in South Sacramento at last Tuesday night’s Sacramento City Council meeting as grassroots community activists mobilized against the internationally boycotted corporation coming to the Capital City.

McCarty asked for the issue to be agendized for a future city council meeting so that an “urgency ordinance” can be passed, according to Save Our Water in Sacramento, the grassroots group fighting against Nestle’s plan to come to Sacramento after being kicked out of McCloud by massive local resistance.

“Councilmember McCarty will be asking the council to pass an urgency ordinance that would require a special permit for water bottling facilities in the city,” said Evan Tucker, an activist with Save Our Water. “This would require this type of project to come before the city council and be subject to environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.”

“We are excited about this development, but concerned about the timeline,” Tucker stated. “If the council does not agendize this issue soon, it could be too late for the new law to affect Nestle. We want to make sure the ordinance would affect Nestle, not just bottling plants in the future.”

Vice Mayor Lauren Hammond also said she was concerned about water bottling in this city and wanted this issue addressed by the council, noted Tucker. However, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson supports the proposal by Nestle to open up the plant, claiming it would bring “jobs” to Sacramento.

Nestle claims the Sacramento plant would be a “micro-bottling plant,” bottling only 50 million gallons of water per year. However, according to the Department of Utilities, the estimated water usage is 215 thousand – 320 thousand gallons of water per day (78 – 116 millions per year). “This would make Nestle one of the top ten water users in Sacramento at a time when we are in our third consecutive year of a drought,” emphasized Tucker.

At a time when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senator Dianne Feinstein and California Legislators are campaigning for a peripheral canal to steal more water from the Sacramento River to supply unsustainable corporate agribusiness on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and unsustainable development in southern California, we don’t need a huge corporation such as Nestle making immense profits off a public trust resource, Sacramento’s water supply!

Human rights activists and breast feeding advocates from throughout the world have boycotted the Swiss-based Nestle Corporation since 1977 because of the millions of deaths of infants it has caused over the decades. The boycott, coordinated by groups including Baby Milk Action, International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) , Infant Feeding Action Coalition (INFACT) and Save the Children, was prompted by concern about the company’s marketing of breast milk substitutes (infant formula), particularly in less economically developed countries, which campaigners claim contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of babies, largely among the poor.

“Nestle is targeted with the boycott because monitoring conducted by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) finds it to be responsible for more violations of the World Health Assembly marketing requirements for baby foods than any other company,” according to Baby Milk Action.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed. Where water is unsafe, a bottle-fed child is up to 25 times more likely to die as a result of diarrhea than a breastfed child. “Marketing practices that undermine breastfeeding are potentially hazardous wherever they are pursued,” according to UNICEF.

Anti-Nestle organizations are sponsoring this year’s Nestle-Free Week from October 26 to November 1 in an effort to raise the profile of the boycott.

Do we want a criminal corporation responsible for the deaths of millions of infants come to Sacramento to make immense profits off our water supply?

Please spend a moment to contact Kevin McCarty and Lauren Hammond and let them know that you want the urgency ordinance passed in time to apply to Nestle. Contact Kevin McCarty at (916) 808-7006 or KMcCarty [at] cityofsacramento.org and Lauren Hammond at (916) 808-7005 or lhammond [at] cityofsacramento.org

Also, Save Our Water will be holding a screening of Tapped at the Crest Theater at 1013 K Street, Sacramento, on Wednesday, October 21. There will be screenings at 5:30 pm and 8 pm. Tickets will be regular box office prices: $9.50 for general admission, $6.00 for students & seniors. You can also purchase them online prior to the event at:
http://www.tickets.com/browseother.cgi?minpid=6622428

For more information, go to http://www.SaveOurWaterSacramento.org

Editor’ Note: Dan Bacher is editor of The Fish Sniffer: www.fishsniffer.com

What Nestle Doesn’t Want You to Know About Their Sacramento Water Bottling Plant (From SaveOurWaterSacramento.org)

What Nestle doesn’t want you to know about its plans to open a water bottling plant in Sacramento

* Nestlé and the City of Sacramento worked hard to quietly fast-track this project so Nestlé could open its South Sacramento bottling plant by January 2010. The project was only announced in a brief back page article in the Sacramento Bee at the end of July.

* While Sacramento residents are required to abide by city-imposed water restrictions, Nestlé would be able to siphon water from our municipal water supply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. According to one staff member at the Economic Development Department, the only limit on the amount of water Nestlé can pump is the size of their pipes.

* Nestlé claims the Sacramento plant would be a “micro-bottling plant,” bottling only 50 million gallons of water per year. However, according to the Department of Utilities, the estimated water usage is 215 thousand – 320 thousand gallons of water per day (78 – 116 millions per year). This would make Nestlé one of the top ten water users in Sacramento at a time when we are in our third consecutive year of a drought.

* According to Nestlé, approximately 30 million gallons of water would come from Sacramento’s municipal water system and 20 million would be trucked to the plant from “private springs.” City staff have refused to answer questions about the springs and Nestlé has provided no information about their location, other than telling the Sacramento News & Review that they are somewhere in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

* Bottling 50 million gallons of water a year would create 800 million water bottles annually. It takes over 400,000 barrels of oil to produce that much plastic. Only 14% of plastic bottles get recycled – the rest end up not only in our landfills, but also in our forests, streams, and oceans.

* The diesel fuel required to truck 20 million gallons of water from the “nearby springs” to Sacramento and 800 million bottles across the state is enormous. Diesel truck emissions contain carbon dioxide and diesel soot, which both contribute to global warming. Diesel exhaust also contributes to air contamination, which is known to cause cancer and other health problems.

* Nestlé would take our tap water and sell it back to us after marking it up over 1,000 times what they paid for it. If Nestlé is allowed to build a water bottling plant in Sacramento, they can take as much water as they want, for as long as they want, without any limits or accountability.

* Water is becoming scarcer as the population grows and the drought continues. The water in Sacramento should be for the plants, animals and humans in this region to live on, not for big companies to amass enormous wealth. If Nestlé is allowed to build this plant, we give up even more control of our water for as long as that plant exists. The City says that Nestlé has a right to move here. Shouldn’t Sacramentans have a right to a secure water supply?

via Save Our Water Sacramento

Sacramento Citizens Not Uniformly Happy About Nestle (SaveOurWaterSacramento.org)

Opposition to Nestle’s zero-public-input, no Environmental Impact Report water bottling operation in Sacramento, CA, is coming under increasing scrutiny.

First, a group has formed to ask the tough questions that apparently the city staff didn’t ask, like how does this fit into the city’s Sustainability Master Plan?

To find out more, visit SaveOurWatersSacramento.org.

Cosmo Garvin of the News & Review riffs on the project, identifying a whole host of issues:

It’s been two months since Nestlé Waters North America announced they plan to build a new bottling plant in Sacramento, where they’ll suck up millions of gallons of delicious Sacramento tap water every year, in order to sell it back to us in plastic at 1,000 times the price (see “Something in the water,” SN&R Bites, July 30).

Well, unlike some mayors that Bites knows, not everybody thinks this is such a great deal for Sacramento. Meet Kristie Harris, spokeswoman for Save Our Water, dedicated to, well, saving our water from corporate takeover. Or, barring that, she at least wants city leaders to ask some basic questions before selling out.

“Giving Nestlé access to unlimited amounts of our water in the third year of a drought is completely unacceptable. There’s been no public forum on this, no environmental impact report, no critical analysis at all.”

via SN&R > Columns > Bites > Going against the flow > 09.24.09.

Nestle Waters, Sacramento City Staff Not Answering Questions About Nestle Bottling Plant

Bad public process follows Nestle around like a shadow, and Sacramento seems to not be an exception.

In what a cynic would suggest is an all-out attempt to avoid the kind of citizen opposition that has dogged every Nestle bottling plant or extraction project as of late, they trying to fast-track their Sacramento water bottling plant, and getting city staff to help them.

This eye-opening piece from the IndyBay site raises a whole raft of questions about Nestle’s intentions, source of its spring water, and the utter lack of controls imposed on the bottler – and asks some questions that Sacramento’s city staff don’t seem to want to answer:

Since this initial publicity, Nestle and the city of Sacramento have worked hard to quietly fast-track this project so Nestle can open its south Sacramento bottling plant in the next few months.

City staff consider this project “non-discretionary,” which means if all goes as planned, there will be no public comment, no city council vote and no environmental impact report.

Down the Drain

Nestle claims that their Sacramento plant will be a “micro-bottling plant,” bottling only 50 million gallons of water. According to Nestle, approximately 30 million gallons will come from Sacramento’s municipal water system and 20 million will be trucked to the plant from nearby “private springs.”

City staff have refused to answer questions about the springs and Nestle has provided no information about their location, other than telling the Sacramento News and Review that they are in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

A search of water extraction permits issued by the State of California over the last two years reveals nothing. The only clues come from other communities struggling to keep from being robbed of their water.

In July of 2008 Attorney General Jerry Brown delivered a near fatal blow to Nestle’s plans for their massive bottling plant in the small mountain town of McCloud California. That same month, developer Lawrence Adams filed an application to increase the amount of water he could extract from a parcel of land he owns in Shingletown, California.

Adams was granted permission to increase the amount he pumps from 26,000 gallons a day to 288,000 gallons a day. Despite requests from Shingletown residents, Adams has refused to disclose who he plans to sell the water to.

This foothill town, looted for water in the same month that Nestle’s McCloud deal crumbled, is the only site we can locate that could possibly be Nestle’s mysterious private spring.

If Nestle is Lawrence Adams’ secret customer, then quite possibly the fate of this town’s water depends on whether or not the Sacramento bottling plant is built.

The tactics Nestle is using in Sacramento are a noticeable departure from the methods they have used in other towns from whom they hoped to profit. Unlike many of their past endeavors – where Nestle negotiates backroom deals for access to inordinate amounts of water – in Sacramento there is no agreement to provide a specified amount of water. In fact, there is no agreement at all.

If everything goes as planned, Nestle just hooks up to our water system and pumps as much as they want. The only limit on the amount of water Nestle pumps, as I was told by one staff member at the Economic Development Department, is the size of their pipes.

The three bottling plants already in Sacramento are among the city’s top 20 water users. All three have increased the amount of water they pump in the last two years, one as much as 54 percent. Why would Nestle be any different?

Nestle has fought for the last 6 years, without success, to establish a bottling plant in the town of McCloud, California. While rumors abound that Nestle is abandoning their plans for McCloud, the company has indicated that it all depends on what happens in Sacramento.

Before bowing to pressure from the public, courts and the Attorney General, Nestle planned to pump 520 million gallons of spring water a year and unlimited groundwater from the aquifers of McCloud. If Nestle pumps 520 million gallons of water in Sacramento that would make them the city’s number one water user pumping over 200 million gallons more than the runner-up, the Sacramento Power Authority.

And why not? Once they are connected no one can control how much water they pump. They have a ten year lease with an option to extend on their warehouse space at 8670 Younger Creek Drive.

The plant will supposedly be 214,000 square feet, but it is within a 548,000 square foot warehouse see diagram below. This is considerably bigger than the size of their proposed McCloud plant and presumably would make it easier for them to expand if they increased production.

You can read the entire article here: Nestle on the Prowl – Poised to Steal Sacramento’s Water : Indybay.

That Nestle is unwilling to disclose any substantive information about the sources of its Sacramento water doesn’t surprise; the Swiss multinational has consistently only revealed (or studied, or monitored, or even considered) those things it’s been forced to consider (or study, or monitor…).

Given the number of PR disasters Nestle Waters has found itself embroiled in as of late, their desire to fast track this plant – and post some kind of victory – is clear.