Tag Archives: jim olson

More Local Reaction to Chaffee County Nestle Decision: “Nestlé Fight Is Not Finished”

It’s interesting to note that the much comprehensive, critical coverage of the Nestle water extraction project in Chaffee County originated from online local news sites.

In the rare instances that larger media outlets (like the LA Times’ Denver bureau) got involved, they often deferred to Nestle’s corporate spokesman, and offered little in the way of real analysis.

One local Chaffe County news site offering coverage was the Ark Valley Voice (whose masthead includes the famous Joseph Pulitzer quote: “Newspapers should have no friends”).

They published an editorial suggesting the Nestle fight wasn’t over, citing a screening of the new bottled water documentary “Tapped” and a visit from Michigan environmental attorney Jim Olson, who helped fight Nestle to a standstill in Mecosta County.

From the Ark Valley Voice:

The second part of the evening featured a presentation by Jim Olson, the Michigan based attorney who fought Nestlé for nine years with some significant victories. He spoke at Thursday evening’s event thanks to efforts by Nestlé’s formal, local opposition, Chaffee Citizens for Sustainability (CCFS). Olson’s message was simple and optimistic: Nestlé can still be turned back, Chaffee County can do it.

But he also warned that the stakes are high, urging people to remember that, “This is not a dead issue. It’s just been born. Their (the Commissioners) vote gave birth to the issue of beneficial use in Colorado.” Nestlé’s move to Chaffee County, he warned, could set a dangerous and unanticipated precedent.

The precedent Olson refers to is the jurisdiction of the North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA. Olson indicated that supporters of Nestlé might consider that NAFTA currently holds no power over Colorado’s Public Water systems. But, with the slow creep of water from a publicly held right to a privately held commodity, Chaffee County’s children could someday compete with Canada and Mexico for access at the kitchen faucet.

County Commissioners who ran for election based on keeping water in the Valley along with speeches regarding green as the color of the future, may have reneged on their promises in more ways than they understand. That’s because once water is privatized, it is very difficult to fend off international intervention.

Olson encouraged folks, however, not to get bogged down with what has passed, but rather to look forward to what can be done. He reminded the large SteamPlant crowd that the Commissioners’ approval is only one minor gateway on the path to Nestlé’s pumping operations. For example, Nestlé still needs to get past State water engineers and have its plans approved by the State Water Court, which can be a lengthy process.

While the word “recall” was heard in association with the current Commissioners, the focus was largely on defeating Nestlé rather than punishing elected officials. In that vein, Olson says there is plenty to do, including:

1. Funds must be raised to combat the bottler in the Water Court.

2. Local opposition must get vocal and energized. Olson reminded people that this campaign is not to be short lived. Nestlé is not defeated overnight, but in the long run.

3. Records should be scoured via the Freedom of Information act in order to examine every interaction Nestlé has with public officials.

4. Send letters to the governor and legislators and let them know that Colorado wants to keep its water public.

5. Join forces with CCFS to help create a long-range plan to combat not only the current erroneous use of Colorado’s water, but also any future incursions. You can donate time, money, or any other skill you have.

Olson also reminded everyone with a stake in the future of the area’s water resources that, “You in Colorado have a chance to draw the line on beneficial water use and use your constitution to say that water is for the people.”

He concluded, “You can define this popularly. It’s the public that has to say, ‘this water is ours and this use of it is wrong.’”

You can read the rest of this opinion piece here: EDITORIAL: Nestlé Fight Is Not Finished | Ark Valley Voice.

What Really Happened In Mecosta County, MI? (Nestle Would Rather You Didn’t Know)

Jim Olson is the environmental attorney who represented the Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation in their six-year battle against a damaging Nestle Waters of North America water extraction operation.

This story has more twists and turns than a mountain road, but there’s a reason Nestle would like to pretend this story didn’t happen – or worse, whitewashes the incident with corporate videos misrepresenting the basic facts of the case.

Here’s one factoid many will find interesting – despite all their posturing to the contrary, Nestle lost in Mecosta County, and lost big – despite bringing an inordinant amount of legal fire power to bear.

What’s worse, the whole ugly episode puts the sword to Nestle’s contention that they’re deeply concerned about the watersheds they tap.

If they were, they wouldn’t have fought the MCWC for six years, only to end up where the MCWC wanted them to begin with.

To get a sense for what happened, here’s an excerpt from Jim Olson’s Op-Ed piece, which you really should read in its entirety – and then save it for use next time a Nestle representative starts making noises like an environmentalist:

What happened in the Michigan Citizens for Water versus Nestle case that put an end to Michigan’s longest water battle, and what does it mean for the future of Michigan’s water?

In 2000, after being turned down in Wisconsin, food giant Nestle moved into Michigan to generate support for high-capacity water wells for its Ice Mountain bottled water brand at the headwaters of the Little Muskegon River. Nestle representatives claimed the company’s studies demonstrated that pumping 400 gallons per minute (gpm) — 210 million gallons a year — would not harm the wetlands, stream and lakes.

A group of Big Rapids-area citizens formed Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) and began asking questions; they also asked Nestle to release its expert reports to the public. MCWC’s experts advised that pumping would reduce the flow of the stream 28 percent and the level of two lakes by as much as 6 inches, a substantial loss for the critical headwater stretch of this diverse riverine system.

Then MCWC’s experts discovered that Nestle’s computer model was flawed: It included a “boundary” — a fixed assumption that the headwater lake and stream had an infinite amount of water. Incredibly, the model would never show impact. Over citizen protests, scientific evidence and legal arguments calling for a rejection of the proposal, the state issued a permit in 2001. MCWC had no choice but to file a lawsuit to uncover the truth and stop a private takeover of Michigan’s water.

In late 2003, Mecosta County Judge Lawrence Root, after a 19-day trial, found that the proposed extraction would cause substantial harm at any rate of pumping, violate long-standing water law principles and impair the water resources, contrary to environmental laws. As a result, Judge Root issued a permanent injunction ordering Nestle to stop all pumping. For a brief moment, a David organization, by then 2,000 members, stopped a Goliath corporation from confiscating Michigan’s water.

via Traverse City Record-Eagle – Article: Op-Ed: Michigan water wars continue.

Nestle Produces Rebuttal Video to Damaging FLOW Movie, Neglects to Mention One Fact: They’re Lying.

While the water documentary FLOW highlights several key water quality and ownership issues, readers of this blog might be most interested in the section on Nestle’s water bottling operation in Mecosta County, Michigan.

The film was damaging enough that Nestle felt compelled to produce a corporate rebuttal video – which sadly falls to the same level of misinformation Nestle’s applied to other “problems” (like its lopsided contract in McCloud or its multiple lawsuits against the town of Fryeburg).

If you’ve got a strong stomach, you can view the video by clicking here.

After you’ve seen it – and if you’re at all familiar with the losses Nestle’s suffered in the Michigan courts over the impacts of its pumping operation (and the fact that they were forced to dramatically curtail pumping under threat of an injunction) – you might wonder how those facts square with those “no impact” statements offered in the video.

The reason? Nestle’s lying.

Read this Jim Olson response to the Nestle Corporate video (posted on the MLive site in response to a pro-Nestle comment touting the Nestle video), and Nestle’s level of deceit becomes apparent:

I viewed the Nestle ad video last night.

Following, are the basic facts as attorney for Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation in the MCWC v Nestle case. Should you or anyone want to verify, simply read the lengthy, but informative and readable court opinions at ww.SaveMIwater.org. The story is all there. You will see how contrived and and misleading the video message and comment by Muchmore really are. Basically, the video does not disclose that Nestle lost on these statements, positions, whatever you call them, at trial.

1. Nestle held public meetings when it first entered the State, but did not disclose all the underlying hydrogeological data, that is the flows, levels,and effects of pump tests on the springs, stream, connected lakes.

2. Once MCWC and others persuaded Nestle to turn the underlying data over, it was reviewed by experts. The raw data showed springs entering the headwaters of the stream from the Sanctuary property (into the impoundment known as Osprey Lake Impoundment) basically lost most or half their flow; the flow through the outlet of the impoundment into the upper reach of the stream dropped by 50%. At one point in the pump test, a consultant measured a 65% drop in flow 1/3 to 1/2 mile downstream near the state highway M20 bridge. In addition, the computer model found no impact, because it contained a “fence” on the lake and stream parameters that assumed infinite supply of water, hence no effects.

3. Nestle hired a new expert, more data on flows, levels, and pumping, was collected, and a new model run made. The new expert’s report, recognized significant drops in flows 18% and by extrapolation as high as 35% om stream during low flow months of Summer. The model also recognized a significant drop in level of Osprey Lake Impoundment from the reduced flows.

4. MCWC’s experts found more than 28% drop in flow of stream, 2 inch drop in stream, narrowing of stream by more than 4 feet, drops in levels of Osprey Lake Impoundment by 4 to 6 inches, and the same at Thompson Lake. Freshwater biologsts and wetland experts determined that these kind of drops would have adverse environmental impacts, from loss of wetlands area and habitat, aquatic habitat along stream edges, temperature increases, exposed bottomlands, and drying of wetlands along Thompson Lake. In addition, riparian and public use diminished because of difficulty in canoing or kayaking over certain stretches.

5. Despite Nestle’s video misrepresents that there are no effects or adverse impacts, they are trying the case they lost in the trial court, appellate courts of Michigan in a video to the public. Pathetically, sad. The trial court found major effects in drops in flows and levels, and impairment of the environment, and that Nestle violated the Michigan Environmental Protection Act and its pumping caused and would cause substantial harm and interference with riparian interests and was unreasonable use under Michigan water law because of the drops in flows, levels, and impacts. The Court of Appeals, even though relaxing unreasonable us standard in favor of Nestle, concluded pumping at 400 gpm was unreasonable and unlawful, and affirmed the trial court’s findings of substantial harm and interference, and the trial court’s conclusion that, after 19 days of scientific battling in court. The trial court found Nestle’s experts were not credible, going so far as calling one a “company man.” The Court of Appeals affirmed the substantial harm findings. The Supreme Court let the findings stand, despite Nestle’s arguments to the contrary.

6. Effects and impacts have continued during the low flow seasons of 2003, 2004, 2005, ,2007. Nestle is under an injunctive order to reduce pumping below 125 gpm or more during Summer months, and that is because of effects and impacts. Nestle and Plaintiffs stipulated and agreed to these limits as part of injunction remedy after liability was affirmed.

7. MCWC and Nestle are back in court, with hearing scheduled for March 2009, to refine the injunction, because Nestle’s pumping needs to be reduced more during low flow seasons or cycles, given the continued harm.

And, yes, there is not one independent or neutral carrier in Nestle’s video. Noah Hall, despite his representations, has supported Nestle, despite his attestations he doesn’t personally do bottled water, including Nestle’s legal arguments to weaken water law to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Russ Harding was former Governor Engler’s appointed Director of environmental quality department, and issued the permits for Nestle for the 4 water wells. Harding has published pro Nestle editorials, and is basically a lackey for the industry. The local well permit guy doesn’t have the expertise or jurisdiction for his statements, and the DEQ punted its responsibility because Russ Harding, in the video, was a director. Nestle’s consultant’s statements lost or were rejected by the courts as noted above.

Jim Olson, Attorney, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation

While Olson knocks the stuffing out of the Nestle video, it’s clear the thing’s gotten some play among what seems to be an emerging online water punditry, who seem willing to dismiss FLOW’s anti-privatization stance without noting that Nestle’s rebuttal video is wholly misleading.

Even worse, it appears Nestle operatives are posting comments on the Internet below related stories. (Witness the message-perfect comment that fired Jim Olson’s response – the work of a Nestle PR person perhaps?)

It’s either blind advocacy or stealth marketing – neither of which is exactly ethical – and it’s yet another sign of Nestle Water’s ongoing lack of integrity.