Tag Archives: rights based water ordinance

Wells Following Examples of Other Maine Towns With Water Extraction Ban?

Rights-based water ordinances have yet to face a court challenge (and we’re expecting one at some point), but their “give the right to decide back to the people” message is certainly resonating with small town residents.

It appears that the town of Wells is set to follow the example of Shapleigh and Newfield, both of whom passed water-extraction ordinances which were aimed largely at Nestle/Poland Spring’s water extraction activities.

Maine town eyes ban on water extraction

Supporters of a measure to prevent companies such as Poland Spring from extracting groundwater in Wells are presenting a ballot proposal to the town’s selectmen.

Organizers say they have gathered signatures from more than 800 Wells residents in support of putting the measure on the June 9 ballot.

In many small towns, elected officials have not done a good job representing the interests of townsfolk (the original Nestle contract in McCloud is a prime example), and residents simply want the right to decide for themselves.

This is not good news for Nestle/Poland Spring, who cannot be happy to see rights-based water ordinances popping up like spring daffodils.

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More on the Shapleight “Rights-Based” Water Extraction Ordinance

This from the Portland Press Herald outlines the basic clash between citizens and their own Board of Selectmen, who apparently haven’t been listening to their citizens. You can read the entire article at Shapleigh closes tap for water companies:

During a special town meeting Saturday morning, residents voted 114 to 66 to adopt the ban drafted by Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources, which had opposed Poland Spring’s efforts to test, draw, bottle and market the town’s water.

The ban had been opposed by the town’s Board of Selectmen, which had favored instead a set of regulations on drawing water in the town that will be on the warrant for the regular town meeting on March 14.

“The problem in Shapleigh is that all three selectpeople want Nestle (Poland Spring’s parent company) in here,” said Shelly Gobeille, one of the leaders of POWWR. “This vote says they can’t come in.”

Will we see yet another attempt by Nestle/Poland Spring to bypass local control? Given the questions being asked by other small towns about Nestle/Poland Spring’s legal activities in Maine’s small towns, do they dare? Do they care?

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Shapleigh Residents Just Say “NO” to Nestle/Poland Spring: Pass Water Extraction Ordinance

I’m sure this is just the beginning of the story – Nestle’s willingness to use a legal bludgeon to ensure profits is well known – but the residents of Shapleigh have overwhelmingly voted to ban water extraction in the tiny Maine town (from the Journal Tribune):

SHAPLEIGH — Residents Saturday approved a rights-based ordinance that prohibits water extraction by corporations.

The vote was 114 to 66 and came 25 minutes into the Town Meeting – and only seven minutes after the call for the vote.

The vote makes Shapleigh the only Maine community to have approved a rights-based ordinance. Residents of Barnstead, N.H., passed a similar ordinance in 2007.

The question now: Will it be challenged?

Immediately following the vote, Selectman Bill Hayes seemed to suggest that selectmen might issue a challenge, but when confronted by a voter, said the board would seek legal advice.

“We’ll seek advice from counsel,” said Hayes. “If the ordinance isn’t enforcable, it puts us in a pretty precarious position as how to proceed.”

Both the town’s lawyer and a Maine Municipal Association attorney have said the rights-based ordinance is unconstitutional and against Maine law.

Selectman Mike Perro read a statement from town attorney Ron Bourque just before the vote, which said the ordinance was illegal, unconstitutional and unenforcable.

Martin Bretton, of the citizens group Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources, read an opinion from the group’s attorney, Lynne Williams of Bar Harbor, who is also a candidate for governor as a Green Independent. Williams noted that the ordinance hasn’t been tested in court so, in her opinion, to say it is illegal or unconstitutional isn’t in an attorney’s purview.

Passage of the ordinance is a victory for the citizens group. When it approached selectmen with a petition last year to have the rights-based ordinance on the annual Town Meeting ballot, the group’s request was rejected, based on the lawyers’ opinions.

Town selectman fought the adoption of the ordinance every step of the way, though residents were clearly unhappy with a proposed “extraction-friendly” ordinance written by a consultant (referred to board by Nestle/Poland Spring).

There’s little doubt that Nestle Waters/Poland Spring – in an effort to forestall the adoption of similar ordinances elsewhere – would be willing to use its heavy legal hammer to turn back the ordinance — and create a little fear and doubt in the minds of others considering a similar action.

Good luck to the residents of Shapleigh, who voted to retain local control of one of their most critical resources.

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Maine Water Group POWWR Wants Rights Based Ordinance Put to Vote

Maine water rights group POWWR – unhappy with a Nestle-friendly ordinance (written for the Shapleigh Board of Selectmen by a Nestle-referred consultant) – presented a petition calling for the town to vote on POWWR’s own rights-based ordinance:

To meet or not to meet is the question confronting Shapleigh selectmen after being presented with a petition to vote on banning water extraction.

Shapleigh Board of Selectmen Chairman Bill Hayes said Monday the board is waiting for an opinion from town attorney Ronald Bourque about how to proceed.

The issue was forced when members of Protecting Our Water and Wildlife Resources, or POWWR, presented a petition to Shapleigh Town Clerk Joanne Rankin calling for a town meeting to allow residents to vote on the “rights-based” ordinance drafted by the organization.

Rankin said Jan. 30 that all signatures on the petition have been certified.

The petition for the town meeting came after members of POWWR rejected an invitation to participate in a Jan. 28 workshop to resolve differences between the proposed ordinances to regulate or ban water extraction.

In the wake of Nestle’s attempt to extract water from a nearby aquifer – and what many felt was an attempt to rush the town into a deal by selectmen – Shapleigh residents have already passed a 180-day moratorium on commercial water extraction, and many want a rights-based ordinance put into law.

Selectmen refused to even place POWWR’s ordinance on the ballot, suggesting it violates the state’s constitution, while POWWR members say the consultant-written ordinance is sipmly too weak:

“I don’t trust these big corporations,” Manville said about Nestle, owners of Poland Spring. He also worried about damage to roads because of increased truck traffic.

Hayes said he has not made up his mind on whether Poland Spring should be allowed to withdraw water for bottling. He said he is concerned international trade agreements might override local ordinances governing extraction because Poland Spring is a subsidiary of the Swiss-owned Nestle.

In a Jan. 27 letter to Shapleigh selectmen, POWWR members called the regulating water extraction ordinance “weak,” especially as it made no provisions for the rate of extraction, hours of operation and traffic flow.

You can read the whole article here: Register Your Thoughts: Group tries to force water vote (Feb. 5, 2009).