Tag Archives: chaffee county sustainability group

What’s Next for Nestle in Chaffee County? Perhaps Not What It Expects…

Now that Nestle’s Chaffee County water extraction project has been permitted – despite the opposition of an overwhelming majority of the citizenry – we have to ask: What’s next?

Salida Citizen reporter Lee Hart – who provided detailed coverage of the entire saga – pens a thoughtful opinion piece about what’s next for the community:

Last week, the commissioner voted unanimously to support conditional approval of Nestle’s operations in this county. The permit approval contains 44 conditions totaling 11 pages which County Commissioner Chair Frank Holman said he trusts the world’s largest food and beverage company will abide by, adding that he also calls on local citizens to serve as watchdogs of the project. A final, formal resolution on the project is expected to be reviewed for adoption before Oct. 18.

Nestle assured the Citizen it would abide by the conditions and be a “good neighbor.” Yet nothing about Nestle’s actions throughout the public review process lead me to share in Holman’s naïve optimism and Nestle’s verbal assurances that Nestle will be a good neighbor and happily comply with all 44 conditions of approval of their permit.

At best this project will be an ongoing series of unwieldy hassles for county staff; at worst, a complete environmental disaster.

I sincerely hope the citizens of Chaffee County don’t experience the environmental and legal nightmares visited upon residents of places like Fryeburg (ME), Mecosta County (MI), McCloud (CA) and a bundle of others.

Yet it’s clear that where Nestle goes, lawsuits and environmental damage often follow – as do Nestle’s corporate spinmeisters, who say one thing while the Swiss multinational does another.

Hart alludes to this sad tendency. And offers a glimpse into the future of the county commissioners who campaigned on water issues, then folded like a cheap tent in a hurricane – even after Nestle’s application and analysis were found badly lacking:

From all appearances, only public pressure and opposing county consultant analysis moved Nestle to make major concessions like the removal of the Bighorn Springs parcel and promise of a permanent conservation easements. There are clear indications Nestle spun facts and the truth in its pursuit of county approval, most notably in a tense debate with Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District General Manager Terry Scanga.

But it  also seems like an unfair fight when a giant multinational corporation picked as its first target in Colorado, a small rural community of limited financial resources, dearth of technical expertise and glaring voids in regulations at the local and state level to definitively protect it against such commercial water grabs. And there’s no question Nestle can and still may well overpower this community with its vast resources in order to win any future argument about any aspect of the project.

While the commissioners had the opportunity to reject the proposal, thereby concurring with public and staff testimony that the application did not satisfy all the terms of the 1041 permit process, they chose instead to approve the project with a lengthy list of conditions they felt addressed the public’s concerns and brought the project into 1041 compliance. In so doing they also reneged on campaign assurances and stump speeches about green being the color of the future here and vowing to keep water in the valley.

You can read Hart’s piece in its entirety at Nestle saga moves toward next chapter.

No Decision On Nestle Extraction Project in Chaffee County

The first afternoon of deliberations on Nestle’s proposed water extraction project seemed to produce little headway, though quotes in the Colorado Springs Gazette suggest the commissioners are split 2-1 on the issue (perhaps leaning towards acceptance).

The commissioners told county staff to come up with possible conditions for approval of a 1041 land-use permit, but the board appeared divided on the controversial project.

“Nestle has made a decision not to create a lot of economic benefit in Chaffee county,” said Commissioner Tim Glenn. “They are coming in. They are taking a valuable resource out of the system and they are giving very little back in the way of utilizing that resource. That’s a concern of mine.”

The company wants to withdraw 65 million gallons of spring water a year for its Arrowhead brand of bottled water from springs a few miles south of Johnson Village. The company operates 27 bottling plants and taps 50 springs around the country. The water would be trucked to a plant in Denver.

You can read the Gazette story here: No decision yet on Nestle bid to tap spring water | county, nestle, commissioners – Colorado Springs Gazette, CO.

Local Citizens Groups Forming to Prevent Nestle Extraction Projects, Foster Local (Sustainable) Economic Growth

Nestle Waters of North America has long been in the practice of imposing their water extraction business template on small rural communities, typically without much protest. And in truth, water and resource laws rarely offered residents the ability to say “no” to corporations like Nestle.

That reality is changing fast, and in fact, Nestle’s projects across
the United States are coming under fire from residents are agitating
for more local control (and local benefits) from the extraction of
their resources.

Maine Ordinances

As noted in a recent NPR story, Maine’s small town residents are collecting signatures, forcing special town meetings and saying “yes” to ordinances which retain local control of water:

The Alliance For Democracy – Wells, Maine, residents vote this weekend on local versus corporate power

In a recent story on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, Defending Water for Life organizer Emily Posner defended the ordinance and the thinking behind it: “This type of approach is reflective of a paradigm change that’s happening in our society and our culture around how we want to interface with the economy and the environment and the future,” she said. “We’re seeing people moving away from big box stores and trying to revitalize their local economy, and this is a similar type of approach that’s happening through the political sphere, where we’re trying to re-localize our political infastructure so that we as communities have the right to decide what will actually happen within our town borders.”

Nestle tries to pretend it’s a “local” company by offering up a refrain of “we’re Poland Spring – a local company,” others have noted that Poland Spring isn’t even a corporation in the state of Maine.

Chaffee County’s Sustainability Group

In Chaffee County (CO), Nestle’s water extraction project – which initially promised nothing more to the community than free bottled water to the school – is now facing determined opposition, and to avoid an embarrassing (and precedent-setting) defeat in their first attempt at an extraction project in Colorado, Nestle’s whipping out the checkbook.

Still smarting from a embarrassing series of “errors” in their 1041 application which grossly overstated the economic benefits to the area, Nestle’s also being confronted by a Chaffee County Sustainability Group, who realize that Nestle’s tapping an important resource, delivers few benefits, and could likely harm the formation of local, sustainable businesses.

Suddenly, the “we’ll do what we please” multinational is making noises about a community endowment and announcing local construction contracts right before meetings, and even if Chaffee County’s residents lose the fight against Nestle’s water extraction project, it’s interesting to note how far Nestle’s willing to go (or needs to) just to stay in the ballgame.

McCloud’s Local First Group

Meanwhile, the long-suffering former timber town of McCloud (CA) is still being intentionally factionalized by Nestle’s attempts to build a water bottling plant there, and in fact, Nestle’s operative Dave Palais marginalized opposition at a nearby Rotary Club meeting by saying “There is a small group that is opposed to the project and many are from out of town.”

The “wealthy San Francisco fly fishermen” refrain has been trotted out numerous times by Nestle’s operative, and it’s a pattern that repeats itself often enough elsewhere (including Maine) that it must be simply considered a divisive part of the Nestle playbook.

Belying that claim is the recent formation of a McCloud Local First group whose goal is:

The McCloud Local First Network is dedicated to strengthening McCloud and the local economy by promoting, preserving, and protecting local, independently owned businesses.

We’d humbly suggest that’s not the manifesto you’d expect from a bunch of “wealthy” out-of-towners.

Sustainable Use of Local Resources

While Nestle’s water bottling operations are under assault on both the economic and environmental fronts, it’s likely their biggest fear is playing out right before their eyes: We’re seeing the formation of local citizens groups dedicated to the development of sustainable businesses.

Multinationals which tap local resources (essentially for free) and send all the profits overseas aren’t exactly a part of that picture, and we can expect Nestle to deny that reality with a wave of PR-driven “community” projects.

Those, sadly, will not alter the fundamentally unsustainable nature of Nestle’s water bottling business (extract, truck, bottle, truck, truck, sell, throw away) – nor the multinationals impacts on local communities.

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