Tag Archives: nestle waters of north america

While Californians Struggle With the Drought, Nestle Wants To Pump Even More Water From The Stricken State

About the only thing you can’t say about Nestle is that they’re inconsistent.

They’ve always been a corporate predator, and the remarks made to the Guardian (by the CEO of Nestle Waters of North America) suggest they’ll always be a corporate predator:

The boss of Nestlé Waters has said the company wants to increase the amount of water it bottles in California despite a devastating drought across the state that has triggered demonstrations at the corporation’s bottling plant.

Tim Brown, chief executive of Nestlé Waters North America, said the company would “absolutely not” stop bottling in California and would actually like to “increase” the amount of ground source water it uses.

Asked in a local radio interview if Nestlé would consider following Starbucks’ lead and stop bottling water in California during the drought, Brown said: “Absolutely not. In fact, if I could increase it, I would.

Just to be clear; California is in the grip of a devastating, historical drought. Five of the last seven years have been drought years, and California’s residents are being told to cut their water use 30%.

For most, that means saying good-bye to landscaping, using buckets to catch the cold water coming out of the shower, idling farmlands (and those who work on them) — and waiting for the day that tap opens and nothing comes out.

Meanwhile, Nestle would pump more water if it could (and wasting approximately 30% of the water they pump).

It’s irresponsible in the extreme, but even more startling is the rhetoric coming from the company; not only are they seemingly overjoyed at the drought, they’d happily make it worse for California’s residents if only they could.

Does Nestle’s Infiltration Of Maine’s PUC Make An Unconflicted Decision About Its Water Operations Impossible?

Nestle is not a corporation that treads lightly on a place — especially Maine, where its tentacles infiltrate the politics so deeply, it seems it’s not possible for a decision to be made by political people untouched by the company. Witness this story from the Press Herald:

FRYEBURG – When the Maine Public Utilities Commission this week takes up a controversial 25-year contract between the company that owns the Poland Spring brand and the family-controlled utility that supplies its water, it will do so under troubling and unprecedented circumstances: All three PUC commissioners, as well as the state’s public advocate, have ties to the company.

If you can’t tell, this is my shocked look.

“Every commissioner on the PUC has been touched by Nestle,” said Fryeburg resident Scot Montgomery, who manages a restaurant kitchen in the nearby White Mountains and has been involved in local water issues. “Everyone who’s supposed to be looking out for the ratepayers, communities, and resource seems to have this other interest.”

Bingo.

While many at the state and PUC level go to great pains to say they believe the commissioners and public advocate aren’t biased, it’s largely impossible to believe that someone who once had a financial interest in Nestle’s success can now be expected to turn around and render an unconflicted decision.

And let’s be clear — in public proceedings, the mere appearance of a conflict of interest should be avoided. In this case, the conflicts are real (and financial in at least one case), yet at least one commissioner has yet to recuse himself despite having had a hand in preparing the very same situation he’s being asked to vote on.

The Fryeburg Deal: Controversial From The Start

The Press Herald’s Colin Woodward writes one of the most cogent explanations of Nestle’s involvement in Fryeburg’s water system, which isn’t without its shadier elements:

Fryeburg Water Co., which serves Fryeburg and East Conway, N.H., is unusual in that it is a privately held water utility. (About 15 percent of the nation’s water utilities are privately held.) It was founded in 1883, but by the 1990s the majority of the shares were held by members of the Hastings family, whose patriarch, Hugh Hastings, has served as company president since 1969 and as an officer since 1950.

Recognizing that Fryeburg had excellent water — the result of quartz-rich geology and clean, copious runoff from the Presidential Range in the White Mountains — Hastings hoped some could be profitably sold to bottlers. But in the interest of fairness, the PUC prohibits utilities from selling water to any entity at a higher price than it charges its ordinary customers, so Hastings and a business partner, Eric Carlson of the engineering firm Woodard & Curran, came up with a workaround.

In 1997, Hastings and Carlson created a company, Pure Mountain Springs, that bought water from the utility at its ordinary rate and sold it to Nestle Waters at a much higher — but undisclosed — rate. Pure Mountain Springs was headed by Hugh’s son, John, who shared ownership with Carlson. PUC filings show Hugh Hastings maintained power of attorney over his son for the first five years of the company’s operation.

Between 2003 and 2007, previous PUC proceedings revealed, this pass-through entity had revenues of $3 million and paid Fryeburg Water Co. $700,000 in rents and water fees. Hastings wrote in 2004 that the initial capital financing was “over $100,000.”

“Fryeburg’s water had the right geological recipe for Poland Spring,” said Mark Dubois, Nestle Waters’ Maine-based natural resource manager. “But it also had entrepreneurs who saw the spring and invested in their business and started selling that water to us. Here was a willing seller; we were a willing buyer.”

Cliff Hall, a longtime opponent of Nestle’s operations who served on Fryeburg’s Board of Selectmen from 2007 to 2010, takes a dimmer view of the situation. “They set up a nepotistic arrangement which bypassed the (utilities) laws that say if you take an excessive amount of money, you’re supposed to reinvest it in infrastructure,” he said. “It seems to me this was a dummy company set up … to take the money and put it back in the Hastings’ trust.”

Others share these concerns. “A public utility is supposed to do the best they can for the customers, the public and the municipality,” adds Bill Harriman, one of four Fryeburg-area residents who have formally intervened in the current PUC case. “And if you look at what these guys were doing back then, they weren’t looking out for the people of Fryeburg.”

Which brings us to the heart of the issue. Nestle — one of the world’s largest (and most distrusted) corporations — is a lot better at watching out for itself than the small towns it preys on.

StopNestleWaters.org Site Is Dormant, But Will Remain Online A Little Longer

As you can tell, the StopNestleWaters.org site is dormant. I simply don’t have time to keep it running.

This site still ranks quite high in search engine results, so those looking to research Nestle’s operations online will read more than Nestle’s somewhat slanted perspective on their water mining operations — and their willingness to bludgeon small towns in rural areas into submission using legal means.

Nestle is not a good corporation — witness their unconscionable actions in the USA and around the world (the baby formula issue is particularly sickening) — so I’ll leave this site up a little longer as a “gift” to them. Enjoy.

TC

Proposed Cascade Locks Water Bottling Plant Drawing Widespread Opposition (Nestle can’t be happy)

The proposed Nestle water bottling plant in Cascade Locks (the Colombia Gorge) is heating up again, and Nestle – perhaps the least-loved water bottling company on the planet – can’t be happy to see this:

The video caption:

On March 29, 2010, a coalition of environmental and social justice organizations, Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge, led by the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, (www.fwwatch.org) launched a coordinated campaign to prevent Nestle Waters North America from opening a water bottling facility in Cascade Locks Oregon.

The coalition gathered at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) offices to speak out against the plant, and to then deliver petitions to the ODFW signed by 4,000 Oregonians who oppose the proposed facility. Keep Nestle Out of the Gorge opposes the deal because a bottled water facility would lead to the commodification of Oregons public water resources, and potentially jeopardize local wildlife, especially native salmon and steel head species.

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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Press Release: Citizens Reject Wells Water Extraction Ordinance (“No” to Nestle)

Press Release
November 3,2009

Contact: Jamilla El-Shafei,organizer for Save Our Water and The Branch Brook Aquifer Coalition (email: jamillaelshafei@gmail.com)
Contact: Jean Foss, spokesperson for Protect Wells Water and member of The Branch Brook Aquifer Coalition (email: jeanfoss@earthlink.net)

Wells voters rejected a water extraction ordinance 3,194 no to 1,420 yes.

Jamilla El-Shafei, organizer for Save Our Water, a water justice organization which includes residents from Wells, Kennebunk, Kennebunkport,Ogunquit and Biddeford, who organized the opposition along with Protect Wells Water said “In spite of the Nestle Waters Corporation spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to influence the vote in Wells, the citizens are standing up to protect their water from corporate exploitation and sending a message: No to large scale water extraction and No to Nestle!

We are hoping that the State of Maine takes notice and that our legislators put water in the public trust.”

“Presently, surface water and ground water are regulated under two different bodies of law, yet they are part of the same hydrological cycle. We need to have one law which protects our water, the state’s most precious resource and place it in the public trust.”

Jean Foss, spokesperson for Protect Wells Water said “Rejection of the Wells ordinance, question #1, makes clear that the people of Wells do not want large scale water extraction. By this decision Wells groundwater remains fully available to the homes and local businesses that depend on it. Wells voters can credit themselves for turning out in numbers to vote on a critical and confusing issue.

Future assaults on our aquifers are likely as water becomes scarce. Citizens are concerned and increasingly well informed. They rightfully demand that our laws, both state and local adequately defend people’s access to clean and abundant water.”

As Vote on Wells Water Ordinance Nears, Nestle/Poland Spring Accused of Dirty Tricks

It’s almost as if Nestle/Poland Spring can’t quite walk the straight and narrow – even when all eyes are on them.

As a vote on Wells’ controversial water extraction ordinance nears, activists are crying foul – and alleging dirty tricks on the part of Nestle/Poland Spring.

First, Nestle printed and distributed fliers which listed incorrect poll opening and closing times.

Nestle claims an it was an innocent error, but opponents aren’t convinced – especially given Nestle’s willingness to meddle in local politics in other places (Nestle maintained they weren’t going to interfere in McCloud’s 2006 elections, but wrote a check to their candidates the day before the election).

Now, a leader in the fight to vote down the proposed Wells commercial water extraction ordinance alleges further misdeeds by Nestle/Poland Spring (in a Seacoast Online article):

I’m mad as hell,” said Jamilla El-Shafei, a water-rights activist from Kennebunk, who alleged that phone calls were made Oct. 20 to Wells residents telling them that if they wanted to reject the ordinance they should vote “yes,” when in fact a “no” vote would oppose it.

El-Shafei, who has spoken out against Poland Spring and its parent company, Nestlé Waters North America, said the alleged phone calls were outright wrong.

Some of the more than dozen people who spoke about the ordinance, reiterated that “yes” means in favor of the ordinance and “no” means against it. About 60 people attended the meeting.

In a subsequent email, she offered more detail:

Last week when some of us were canvassing the telemarketers (perhaps from Nestle) had just called folks before we came to the door. When asked about voting on the water extraction issue, when the residents said “I don’t want Poland Springs taking my water,” the telemarketers said “VOTE YES if you don’t want water extraction.”

People were really upset to learn that they were snookered, once we explained it to them. One man said “I am so mad I am going to call the papers.”

Later, she alleged intimidation on the part of a Poland Spring attorney:

On Thursday night, Save Our Water had a speaker from Hollis speak before the Terri Swier talk about them spraying chemicals from their waste water on fields in Hollis as well as other things and the next day Nestle’s Attorney Chip Ahrens from Pierce Atwood called the woman and intimidated her.

There’s no way to confirm what was said during the phone call or what Mr. Ahrens’s intentions were, but it’s clear that – as the pivotal Wells ordinance vote approaches – Nestle’s clearly concerned.

Should the ordinance – based on a Denmark ordinance that many allege was written by a Nestle-friendly consultant – go down before a vote of the citizens, a moratorium to prevent extraction would be extended.

More importantly, small towns that want nothing to do with Nestle/Poland Spring will realize they have options – and Nestle/Poland Spring can’t sue them all.

Christian Science Monitor Explores Nestle Issue in Salida (CO), Nestle Can’t Be Happy

While Nestle Waters of North America’s water extraction operation in Chaffee County, CO may have received a go-ahead from the county (despite the fact Nestle’s application didn’t meet the criteria), citizens are not happy, and the story drew the attention of the Christian Science Monitor, which included this passage:

For the better part of this year, Salida – population 5,400 – has also been the setting for a 21st century kind of battle – over water.

Here and there in windows and entryways are signs reading “Stop Nestlé” or “Nest-Leave.” They refer to a proposed project by Nestlé Waters North America, which hopes to pump water from a spring a half-hour north of here and sell it under its Arrowhead label.

Citing myriad concerns, a group of residents has objected vigorously. They worry about impacts to the watershed and to nearby wetlands. They say that climate change, predicted to further dry Colorado and the Southwest, warrants a precautionary approach to all things water-related. And, pointing to fights other communities have had with the company, they say they simply don’t want Nestlé as a neighbor.

None of the above is news to StopNestleWaters readers, and the response from Nestle’s operative is also predictable; opponents are “emotional” and Nestle’s only a target because they’re big.

This, of course, ignores the numerous conflicts Nestle’s incited in other rural areas, and it’s a shame the article itself doesn’t completely explore the roots of citizen dissatisfaction with Nestle.

Still, attention from national and international media (like the famous BusinessWeek article on Nestle’s battle in McCloud) are the very thing that Nestle would like to avoid. After all, the company is one the most-boycotted corporations on the planet, and they’re still facing an international baby formula boycott for their predatory tactics aimed at third world mothers.

National media attention they don’t need – even that which uncritically accepts the statements of their spokespeople.

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.