Tag Archives: nestle waters of north america

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

StopNestleWaters Taking a Monthlong Break

It’s a coincidence that a new adventure in my life dovetails so neatly with Nestle’s withdrawal from McCloud, but I’m going to be largely unavailable for several weeks, so I’m going to take a little hard-earned, 30-day break from this blog.

When StopNestleWaters.org began life, it was focused on a couple key goals:

  • Provide rural activists with access to information about Nestle Waters of North America’s tactics in other towns, so they knew what to expect – and what to watch for
  • Hold Nestle Waters of North America accountable for its actions, hopefully undermining the “every community likes us” and “we’ve never harmed an aquifer or watershed” spin that’s constantly broadcast by PR staff and on-the-ground operatives
  • Generate excellent search engine placings, so those searching for information about Nestle’s bottling activities will find more than Nestle’s corporate Web sites on the first page of Google’s organic search results

Through the nearly 450 articles I’ve posted, I’ve succeeded at the latter, though the first two goals have only been partially met.

That’s a function of a lack of time, though I am gratified that we had a hand in making Nestle’s actions in other communities a real issue in Chaffee County and (hopefully) Cascade Locks.

Still, fighting a multinational like Nestle – and its surrogates, including the CEI and the International Bottled Water Institute – is a lot like putting your head in a vise, turning the handle until everything goes black, then waking up and doing the whole thing again.

At some point, you need a break, which is where I’m at now.

In addition, my business is changing – as are my priorities around my time – and so I’m taking a break from StopNestle Waters until (possibly) the end of October. At that time, I’ll evaluate the site, the effort needed to sustain it, and make some decisions.

I want to thank everyone who provided information, links and alerts, and wish everyone the best of luck in their efforts. In addition, I fervently hope that Nestle stops playing games with rural communities and the people who live in them. The divisive tactics and demonization of opponents has left a trail of broken communities in Nestle’s wake, and truly wish they’d start to become the “good corporate neighbor” they pretend they are.

Fight the good fight,

TC

Can Cascade Locks, Sacramento Trust Nestle’s Job Projections?

Nestle’s announcement that it was leaving McCloud wasn’t wholly unexpected, but in many ways, it’s still difficult to entirely believe the project is dead.

Nestle has chosen to continue its belated flow studies, and the MCSD was choosing a water committee to study the issue (some charge the committee was being stacked with pro-Nestle members).

And while it’s tempting to credit Nestle’s egress entirely to local activists (Concerned Citizens, McCloud Watershed Council, Protect Our Waters and CalTrout chief among them), the market clearly played a strong hand.

After all, Nestle’s bottled water revenues were down 3% the first half of this year, and it’s clear their “premium” spring water brands took a much bigger hit in favor of their tap-water derived, less-expensive Pure Life brand.

With fuel costs running far higher than when the McCloud project was first conceived, and demand shifting to the “value” priced segment of the market, Nestle’s relocation to Sacramento makes a certain sense – as does their interest in building more, smaller plants.

Which raises the obvious question; had Nestle’s original (and astonishingly lopsided) contract with the MCSD been allowed to stand as negotiated, how many of Nestle’s promised jobs would still be extant in the town of McCloud?

On StopNestleWaters.org, we’ve long questioned Nestle’s promises of jobs to communities; the only real data we’ve seen published suggests the promises aren’t always real.

Nestle may not want to admit it, but they can’t have it both ways; if market conditions truly forced the move to a smaller, differently configured production facility in Sacramento, then it’s not hard to extrapolate to a present where McCloud would have been repayed for its water with an even fewer jobs than promised (many of those jobs of the sub-living wage variety).

It’s entirely likely a Nestle factory in McCloud would be running at a fraction of its built-out capacity – and McCloud would be experiencing yet another resource-extraction related economic bust.

Should the bottled water market continue to nosedive, what of the jobs Nestle dangles in front of other communities?

After all, Cascade Locks seems to believe the jobs provided by the company will save their town – and Sacramento seems willing to give up unlimited municipal water in return for only 40-60 jobs.

But what if those jobs are illusory, especially after three more years of a declining bottled water market?

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

Nestle’s Chaffee County Water Extraction Project Represents Bad Public Process

Everywhere Nestle’s water bottling operations go, bad public process seems to follow – as evidenced by this brilliant summation of the damaged approval process just concluded in Chaffee County, CO (found in the Salida Citizen news site, written by Lee Hart).

This excerpt from her lengthy post details the travails of citizens who waited hours to speak while Nestle received preferential treatment, broken promises, and a willingness to accept the unwritten promises of a multinational with a demonstrated inability to keep its good neighbor promises:

Over nine months of public hearings, hundreds of citizens passionately voiced their unambiguous opposition to Nestle. This, in the face of a hearing format that seemed biased in favor of giving Nestle every courtesy and consideration while on more than a few occasions showing visible irritation at testimony by local residents. In packed meeting rooms in Buena Vista and Salida, taxpaying voters waited patiently through inhumanely long meetings for their turn to speak out.

The commissioners allowed Nestle to run beyond their allotted agenda time by – on some nights – hours, yet when citizens went a few seconds over their 3-minute allotment of time at the microphone, Commission Chair Holman threatened to forcibly remove the speakers. The bias was apparent again today when in the waning moments before they unanimously agreed to approve Nestle, the commissioners haggled over language pertaining to a Nestle-funded community endowment.

In refusing the quantify – at all – Nestle’s annual programmatic contributions to the fund, the commissioners left it to Nestle – rather than the community – to define the dollar amount of philanthropic giving that constitutes being a “good neighbor.”

Face to face with a cadre of Nestle lawyers and high-priced experts, campaign promises by Giese and Holman, made less than a year ago, melted away as quickly as butter in August. Holman pledged that on his watch, no more water would leave this valley. How then could he sign a resolution permitting 65 million gallons to be sucked and trucked beyond county lines?

Giese famously said that green is the color of the future of this valley. How could Giese possibly interpret as good for green all the warnings thrown up by the county’s own consultants and referral agencies warning that Nestle could have negative impacts to surface water quantity and quality, groundwater quantity, air quality, wetlands and the plants and critters that depend on the riparian habitat.

Public opposition to Nestle boiled down to several key themes: Incontrovertible evidence prior to their arrival in Chaffee County and even during the public hearing process made it hard to believe Nestle could, without very specific legally binding stipulations, be the “good neighbor” they purport to be; the intentionally weak and sugar-coated science Nestle presented during its testimony belies lurking danger to surface and groundwater resources as well as riparian habitat that is bad for the longterm sustainability of the environment, as well as future economic development prospects for the valley. Even the county knows this as implied in the Special Land Use Permit where the county writes “Future development outside the subject parcels may impact the quality or quantity of spring water related to the Project.”

It would be naive to think Nestle won’t assign some of its vast resources to block any future housing or commercial development upgradient of its Bighorn and Ruby Mountain springs. It’s hard to imagine any small developer or business person being able to prevail against a fight waged by the world’s largest food and beverage maker.

You can read the rest of Hart’s original post here: Nestle in Chaffee County: Goliath 1, David 0; end or extra innings?.

Why Did Nestle Leave McCloud? Nestle’s “Truth” Isn’t Necessarily Mine

On a nice blog run by a seemingly very nice Nestle employee, the writer suggested he was “surprised” at some of the reasons he’d read as to why Nestle Waters of North America pulled their proposed water bottling operation out of McCloud.

In an effort to air the “truth” he offered up Nestle Waters CEO Kim Jeffries’ letter, and while I agreed that Jeffries’ letter was true as far as it went, I also said that it was far from the whole truth. My response to the gentlemen’s post is below.

I always get a little nervous when I see the word “truth” in relation to anyone’s press materials.

For what it’s worth, I believe that Mr. Jeffries’ letter is largely true – that fuel costs and changing market conditions made the switch to a Sacramento plant largely seamless.

Still, it’s far from the “whole” truth, and I think asking us to accept it as such is a little disingenuous.

I don’t know which of the theories and speculation surprised you, but I’d guess you’re referring to the “locals send Nestle packing” stories and posts.

You might feel that’s not true, but I think it’s an entirely factual statement to say that Nestle would be pumping, bottling and trucking water out of McCloud right now if a group of committed local residents hadn’t challenged Nestle’s first contract with the McCloud Services District in court.

That same group pointed out that Nestle’s first environmental impact report was entirely bereft of flow studies downstream of the water extraction point, and therefore didn’t measure a key environmental impact at all – which largely forced Nestle to abandon the first (and incomplete) EIR.

This is a simple truth.

I appreciate your willingness to entertain comments on your post, and I recognize I can’t know your perspective on this issue. For example, I can’t know if you experienced this whole process from a distance or from ground zero.

I’ve seen it unfold firsthand, and feel there are several other “truths” at work here that aren’t mentioned in Mr. Jeffries’ letter.

First, it’s true that Nestle is leaving the tiny town of McCloud in a divided, polarized state. It’s a painful thing to see neighbors (and even families) pitted against each other over this issue. Mr. Jeffries won’t refer to it as such in his letter (why would he), but I feel it’s part of a lingering reality about Nestle’s impacts on small, rural communities.

For example, it’s true that Nestle’s own representative repeatedly demonized plant opponents by characterizing them as “wealthy, out-of-town (San Francisco) fly fishermen” or as non-contributing newcomers to the area – terms guaranteed to fire up an “us vs them” mentality in a small community.

It’s also 100% true that Nestle repeatedly maintained they weren’t going to interfere in the local election process (I’m referring to the 2006 elections), but then wrote a check for $2500 to the pro-Nestle slate of candidates the day before the election – in one fell swoop dwarfing the amount of money raised by all other candidates (both pro and con). This largely put the sword to Nestle’s contention that it wasn’t going to “interfere” in the election.

It’s also “true” that Nestle’s legal council did attempt to gain access to the private financial records of opponents of Nestle’s bottling plant (some of whom were friends of mine). We can argue about the “truth” behind Nestle’s motives in that instance, but from here, it looked a lot like legal intimidation.

The above are all verifiable facts, and all led to my decision to found a Web site that attempts to hold Nestle accountable for its actions in small, rural towns.

In the twilight between verifiable “fact” and what is “probably” true lies a whole raft of messiness on both sides. This hasn’t been a pretty process, and while I hold Nestle 100% accountable for a fair amount of unsavory behavior, I also cringed at some of the wilder accusations leveled by opponents.

Nestle’s CEO says the company is leaving because of market conditions and fuel costs. Opponents claim a victory, and suggest Nestle was sent packing by a ragtag group of citizens. And just to muddy things further, I’ve read press releases from national organizations suggesting greater involvement than seemed to be the case.

Where is the truth here?

Like always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but I know for a fact that Mr. Jeffries’ letter – likely the product of a gifted PR department – is hardly a complete vision of the truth – especially once you consider the simple fact that a new contract with the town of McCloud had become a very, very uncertain thing.

Did local citizens send Nestle packing? Is the bottled water market taking a plunge (and affecting capacity decisions)? Are transportation costs up? Does Nestle have a long, long ways to go to actually become the “good” neighbor it says it is?

I believe all the above are true.

If anyone has anything add, perhaps you could do so on his blog. After all, I didn’t delve into less “provable” concepts – like McCloud’s becoming a PR nightmare for Nestle, who at one point wanted to know what it would take to make the opposition “stop.”

Again, he created a simple post and seems like a nice guy, so any comments should be respectful. After all, if you worked for Nestle – and found yourself located a continent away from McCloud – your perspective on this would be very different from mine.

I would suggest that the remote perspective is a flawed one, especially if it’s informed largely by Nestle’s own official flow of information, but there it is.

On First Day of Cascade Locks Water Test, Nestle Kills All The Fish (Oops)

Nestle’s Cascade Locks bottling plant proposal will take water currently being used to raise endangered fish species, replacing it with well water.

Given that Nestle’s never done more than the minimum testing needed to secure their pumping permits (their pumping test in Chaffee County was only 72 hours long, and initially performed no tests at all in McCloud), the following dead fish story shouldn’t surprise us:

On the first day of an intended year-long test to see if Cascade Locks well water was suitable for raising fish, well water pumped into a test pond contained chlorine due to an equipment malfunction, and all of the privately purchased rainbow trout fry in the pond were killed. Nestle says (see below) it is working to “ensure there are adequate protections to avoid this, or other potential problems, in the future.”

The loss of the fish on the first day and Nestle’s subsequent commitment to only “ADEQUATE [my emphasis] protections … in the future” are very revealing, especially when considered in the context provided by their behavior in other communities across the country (see my Sept. 2 post below for documentation and action suggestions).

Oppose this project now, and support other projects to create sustainable jobs and options in Cascade Locks and other communities.

via Economic Justice Action Group » All test pond fish killed on 1st day due to equipment malfunction: Nestle’s Cascade Locks proposal?.

FLASH: Nestlé Waters Ends Bid for McCloud, CA Water Bottling Plant

When the end came, it came swiftly for Nestle’s proposed McCloud (CA) water bottling plant:

Nestlé Waters North America has decided to withdraw its proposal to build a bottling facility in McCloud.

Ever since Nestle negotiated its rapacious contract with the McCloud Services District in 2003 (largely behind closed doors), then pressured the board to approve it at the end of the first public input meeting, Nestle’s McCloud project has become one of the company’s biggest public relations liabilities.

First there were the string of lawsuits, and as the specifics of the contract came to light, outright indignation at the lopsided nature of the deal.

Here was a predatory multinational preying on a small rural town – as it had in other locations – but this time, not all the local residents were willing to shrug it off and walk away.

Instead, they rallied, formed groups, gained a small amount of financial backing, garnered a significant amount of international media attention, and ultimately forced Nestle to abandon its hugely one-sided contract.

Instead, in 2008, Nestle began the flow monitoring studies it should have begun in 2003, but the process was made redundant when Nestle negotiated a fast-track deal in Sacramento that better reflected the realities of rising fuel costs and pissed-off, distrustful McCloud residents.

Unfortunately for Nestle, the damage was already done to their normally behind-the-scenes work in rural areas; now almost every Nestle extraction or bottling project finds itself opposed by citizens who have learned what Nestle’s truly capable due to their actions in McCloud, Fryeburg, Mecosta, and others.

And yes – due to activists and the informational power of the Internet – Nestle’s been forced to address questions about its predatory behavior in rural areas.

Whether Nestle has turned over a less-predatory leaf in its pursuit of spring water from rural sources remains to be seen, and yes – significant questions about the environmental impacts and privatization of a critical resource are far from answered.

Still, in this one place – in this tiny mountain town – Nestle stumbled badly, tripped up by a small group whose victory will no doubt be noticed by others facing Nestle in their area.

via Nestlé Waters ends pursuit of McCloud facility – Mount Shasta, CA – Mount Shasta Herald.

Nestle Considering Extraction, Bottling Operation in North Carolina

Chesterfield County, N.C. looks to be on Nestle Waters of North America’s short list for a new water extraction/bottling facility.

From the St. Louis Business Journal:

Nestlé Waters North America Inc. is considering sites in Chesterfield County, N.C., for a spring-water source and bottling facility.

Will they be met by fawning local elected officials, or unhappy residents – concerned about traffic, loss of a local resource, privatization of water, truck traffic, declining property values, etc?

I don’t know, and it’s possible Nestle doesn’t either, though their playbook involves getting someone on the ground long before this kind of announcment is made.

via Nestlé eyes plant sites – St. Louis Business Journal:.

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.

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.