Tag Archives: shapleigh

Maine Towns Say “NO” to Nestle, Force Removal of Secretly Dug Test Wells

Nestle/Poland Spring aren’t having it all their way in Maine – they were run out of Shapleigh and Newfield by a citizen uprising, and just removed the test wells they drilled without the knowledgege of the local citizenry:

After an extended grassroots campaign, Nestlé is finally removing 23 bottled water test wells from a wildlife management area in Shapleigh and Newfield, ME.

Shelly Gobielle and her neighbors first discovered the wells a year and a half ago, three years after Nestlé’s under-the-radar installation. Upon realizing that Shapleigh was likely one of the next site for Nestlé’s water extraction for its Poland Spring brand bottled water, residents approached town officials with their concerns about what bottling would do to the local ecosystem. Their words fell on deaf ears, as Nestlé had already lobbied for and secured the support of the Shapleigh town officials.

The only option was for residents to take matters into their own hands, forming the group Protect Our Water and Wildlife Resources (POWWR). Members hit the streets and went door to door educating the public and signing enough petitions to call a town meeting, held four months ago.

Residents in both Shapleigh and the neighboring town of Newfield passed ordinances that asserted the right of townspeople to control their own water and to prohibit commercial water extraction, a reality that can at last be assured.

Secret negotiations are a standard part of the Nestle approach – time and time again, they’ve quietly negotiated deals with officials they approached quietly well in advance. McCloud, the Sterling/Clinton mess, Shapleigh & Newfield… the list goes on.

Bye Nestle. I don’t think the town’s going to miss you or your legal bludgeon.

via Maine Community Rebuffs Nestlé Over Water Rights | The Water Conservation Source.

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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“How Your Town Can Keep Its Water Out of Corporate Hands”

Intelligent words from AfterDowningStreet.org: How Your Town Can Keep Its Water Out of Corporate Hands: A Test Case

This is certainly not the first time that a multi-national corporation treated Maine as if they were a colonial power entitled to our resources. In the past, international paper companies have turned our rivers brown from pollution and huge timber companies have exploited our forests. But the battle over our pure groundwater resources has become the tipping point in Maine. Community after community are now resisting corporate control.

The battle in Newfield and Shapleigh began when resident Ann Wentworth was hiking in the Wildlife Preserve and discovered that Nestle had (illegally) drilled several “test” wells without notifying the townspeople. The community was shocked, which galvanized support of the activists efforts to stop Nestle.

This was not an easy victory, as Nestle sent “representatives” out into the community to convince the residents of both Newfield and Shapleigh that they would be “a good neighbor.” Nestle also spent tens of thousands of dollars on advertising in the community and it is alleged that they offered money to the fire department for new equipment. However, to quote activist Sol Linowitz, “The way to beat organized money is with organized people.”

The P.O.W.W.R. water activists and allies know their neighbors, and once people understood that it was in fact the Nestle Corporation who was after their water and not the small Maine- owned Poland Springs company of years past, the townspeople did their homework and decided that this was not a company that they wanted to do business with. Nestle has been on the non-profit Corporate Accountability’s Hall of Shame for years, as one of the world’s worst corporations. This bad reputation goes back over 30 years during the baby formula scandal in Africa to the present baby formula scandal in China.

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Second Maine Town Enacts Water Extraction Ordinance,

A second Maine town has enacted a rights-based water extraction ordinance (Shapleigh was the first); now Newfield passed a ban on a vote of 228 to 146.

From WCSH6.com – Newfield Passes Ban On Large Scale Water Extraction

NEWFIELD (NEWS CENTER) — The town of Newfield is now the second in Maine to ban large-scale water extraction.

Saturday’s vote was 228 in favor of the new ordinance and 146 against. The vote is a reaction to interest from Poland Spring Water and its parent company, Nestle, in pumping water from an aquifer shared by Newfield and Shapleigh.

Shapleigh voted for the same ban on water extraction two weeks ago. However, there is some concern that that ordinance could be overturned in court. As a result, townspeople voted on a different ordinance at town meeting Saturday that would lay out what a water company would have to do to be able to extract water from the aquifer.

While Shapleigh’s Selectmen are making noises about the legality of the Shapleigh ordinance, the real questions revolve around Nestle/Poland Spring’s willingness to step into yet another damaging legal fight (one wonders what their five suits against Fryeburg have cost their already-tarnished reputation).

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Letter From Shapleigh Residents (Proud to Live In Shapleigh)

This from the Defending Water in Maine “Water in the News” blog – a letter from a Shapleigh resident about the just-passed rights-based ordinance. Kinda makes you smile.

Proud to live in Shapleigh (letter)

We are so proud to be counted among Shapleigh’s Citizens, and especially among those voters that were at the Citizen’s Town Meeting this past Saturday, February 28, 2009.

HOORAY & KUDOS to all of us who voted to keep our water in our own hands. Hooray & kudos also to all who voted their conscience. It just proves that we now live in a town which gives every citizen the right to vote on issues that will impact our way of life. We’re not divided at all. We simply utilize our right to vote!

We’ve had a lot of precipitation lately, but that won’t always be the case. We heard recently that just before the Fire of 1947, there was an abundance of rain. Then quite suddenly a very dry period. People were actually driven to the ocean, we are told, to stand there in the water until the fire was extinguished. California is now experiencing a tremendous drought. One never knows when water will be badly needed here in York County where we are so blessed with water.

Edward Murphy of the Portland Press Herald wrote an article for the March 1, 2009, Sunday Telegram about our vote to ban large scale water extraction. It was a comment from Bill Hayes’, in this article, that took us by surprise. At all of the Public Hearings, questions were asked of him and the Planning Board about what Poland Springs was bringing to the table regarding monies they would spend for our water. Always the response was no particular water extractor had expressed an interest or applied for a permit, and that even if one had, discussion of money would not take place until well into the exploratory process.

Now that all is said and done, and large scale water extractors are banned from mining our water, Mr. Hayes says that talks with the water bottler never got to the point where a dollar figure was discussed, but the amount “would have been significant.” Now wait a minute – talks with a water bottler? Weren’t we told none had applied for a permit? Wait another minute – didn’t get to the point of discussing dollars? How then would Mr. Hayes know it “would have been significant.”? Not that it would have mattered to Shapleigh’s citizens – at least most of them. We still want to keep our water within our control.

We the voters of Shapleigh made ourselves clear. We do not want our water extracted and sold. We’re a caring community. As far as we know, we would gladly give water to anyone who is thirsty.

Sat., March 14, 10:00 AM, Shapleigh Memorial School, is the annual Shapleigh Town Meeting. Part of that Warrant will be to enact the Town of Shapleigh Ordinance Governing the Large-Scale Pumping or Extraction of Groundwater, Spring Water and/or Water from Aquifers within the Municipality of Shapleigh, Maine – An addition to Town of Shapleigh Ordinances Section 105 -. We need to, once again go to the school and vote “NO” on this Regulatory Ordinance. We already stated with our vote on Shapleigh Water Rights & Local Self-Government Ordinance that we don’t want our water mined and sold out of our town.

And also on Sat., March 14, 1:00 PM, Newfield has the opportunity to be part of this historical moment and enact Newfield’s Water Rights & Local Self-Government Ordinance. We share an aquifer, and we’d like to share the historical glory. Abraham Lincoln stated it grandly: “Right Makes Might!” GO FOR IT!

Marty & Barbara Britten
No. Shapleigh, Maine

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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Nestle Continues Attempts to “Force Their Hand” Against Shapleigh Citizens

It’s instructive to watch Nestle Waters enforce the same blueprint rural community after rural community.

While I’ve got a report coming about last week’s McCloud meeting, this article on Nestle’s attempt to (as they so quaintly put it) “force their hand” in the tiny rural town of Shapleigh reads as if it was taken from the Nestle playbook:

Shapleigh and Newfield are small rural communities, nestled in the foothills of the Presidential mountain range. Combined, the towns’ population is less then 4,000 residents.

These two small Maine towns share an abundant sand and gravel aquifer that is protected by the 4,000 acre Vernon Walker Game Management Area. Vernon Walker is publicly owned state land that is managed by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. In 2006, without any public oversight, Nestlé sunk up to 16 bore wells in this public land to determine the viability of industrial water extraction.

When the state offered a price/gallon too high for the Fortune 500 company, they started bargaining with Shapleigh town officials in an effort to instead begin operating on town land adjacent to Vernon Walker.

On September 20, 2008, Shapleigh citizens sent a clear message to Nestlé when the town voted overwhelmingly for a 180-day moratorium to protect their groundwater. They also voted NO to drilling and testing by Nestlé on the town-owned parcel of land.

In the Boston Globe, Nestlé’s lead geologist was quoted as saying, “we might need to force our hand” in regards to the resistance of Shapleigh and Newfield residents.

And since the vote in September, the company has not stopped in its efforts to get the precious water from this area, and the Town’s elected officials are attempting to push forward an ordinance that will open the door to large scale industrial water extraction.

Read the entire article at Nestlé is moving fast–southern Mainers need your help

Register Your Thoughts: Letter: People POWWER (Feb. 12, 2009)

This thoughtful letter to the editor draws a bead on the water ordinance proposed by Shapleigh’s Board of Selectmen – an ordinance written by a Nestle-referred consultant.

It falls far short of the ordinance desired by the citizens of Shapleigh when they voted for a water extraction moratorium:

The “Ordinance Governing Water Extraction,” proposed for the Shapleigh voters to act upon (available at www.shapleigh.net ) boils down to an application permit. Once any company has met, or promises to meet the requirements of this ordinance, the town would not have the legal right to refuse the applicant permission to extract water.

The town relies upon the applicant to supply information, without independent verification. Any state-certified hydrologist working for a company need only tell the “truth,” not necessarily the “whole truth.” Pertinent facts can be omitted or skewed by the inclusion of extraneous information.

Also of note, is that under the application “conditions of permit” the applicant is given an unspecified amount of time to show adherence to the stated requirements. In truth, some of the requirements would require long term pumping at high capacity just to satisfy the information being asked.

Once again, the public’s desire to participate in the future disposition of their own water supply is on the verge of falling victim to bad public process.

You can read the rest of this powerful letter to the editor via Register Your Thoughts: Letter: People POWWER (Feb. 12, 2009).

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).

Open Letter to Shapleigh Selectmen: Citizens Want Rights-Based Water Ordinance

A recurring theme among those fighting Nestle’s water extraction is a non-responsive local media and elected officials who act is if the desires of citizens are something to be ignored.

This has become immediately apparent in the case of Shapleigh, where citizens voted to enact a moratorium and to create a water-extraction ordinance. Unfortunately, Shapleigh’s Board of Selectman immediately turned to a consultant to write the ordinance – one referred to them by Nestle.

The resulting ordinance was predictably tilted towards extraction, and Protect Our Water and Wildlife Resources, Inc. (POWWR) is trying to force a recalcitrant Board of Selectmen to heed citizen desires for an ordinance that protects water, not simply lays down rules for its extraction by Nestle. Here’s an excerpt:

Why have Shapleigh officials not been responsive to citizen input? And to what extent can that behavior be attributed to influence by Nestle? Those are questions that strike at the heart of the democratic process, and the public deserves clear answers to them.

Sound familiar? Read the rest of their press release here:

DATE: January 27, 2009

FROM: Protect Our Water and Wildlife Resources, Inc. (POWWR)

RE: Ordinances governing large-scale water extraction in Shapleigh, Maine


BACKGROUND: Control of large-scale water-extraction is at issue in Shapleigh today solely because the Swiss-based industrial food giant Nestle, doing business in Maine through the company called Poland Spring, is proposing massive water extraction for commercial profit in both Shapleigh and neighboring Newfield. Such extraction would be unprecedented for these small towns, and Nestle’s unremitting pressure to effect it represents the latest phase in what is emerging as a world-wide battle for control of the planet’s supply of fresh water. How citizens and their governments respond at this level and this time is therefore a matter of the highest importance.

UPDATE: In a move designed to make their position crystal-clear, POWWR members voted unanimously last week to reject an invitation from Shapleigh selectmen to discuss their opposing views on local control of large-scale water extraction.

The reasoning behind POWWR’s decision last week includes the following facts:

By its very nature, the large-scale water-extraction ordinance drawn up this fall by the Shapleigh Planning Board to be placed before voters in March does not give voters the option of saying an unqualified NO to large-scale water extraction; it merely sets terms for regulating the extraction. In fact, current interpretation of state and federal laws means that NO such regulatory ordinance, no matter how strict, can deny drillers the right to extract once applicants have met all terms of regulation.

POWWR offers voters an alternative: an ordinance whose legal authority is seen as grounded in the U.S. Constitution’s assurance that individuals and the towns through which they express their collective wills have a basic right to self-governance. Such an ordinance*, termed “Constitutional,” or “rights-based,” in other words, DOES give voters the option of saying NO.

* Termed “Shapleigh Water Rights and Local Self-Government” in its application here, that ordinance will herein after be referred to as “the rights-based ordinance.”

Shapleigh voters have, in effect, said NO to Nestle multiple times already: first, in their response to a petition calling for a vote to impose an immediate moratorium on discussion of large-scale, corporate-funded and profit-motivated water extraction; next, in five public hearings ultimately held on the matter — hearings in which the turnout was exceptionally large and the prevailing sentiment almost uniformly critical of the proposed extraction; and, finally, in the voting on September 20, in which the lopsidedness of opinion could no longer be called into question: it ran not only 204 to 38 in favor of the moratorium, but 191 to 51 against further test drilling.

Moreover, in the time since the vote, citizens’ eagerness to sign petitions to (a) request the opportunity to vote on the rights-based (vs the regulatory) ordinance, and (b) set in motion, once selectmen denied that request, a process to force the voting opportunity, strikes POWWR as further evidence of Shapleigh citizens’ wish to say NO.

POWWR therefore believes that its support for a rights-based ordinance clearly reflects the will of the people.

POWWR continues to contend that the regulatory ordinance being proposed by the town is weak, even as judged by regulatory-ordinance standards only. That ordinance lacks specificity — most significantly, on the critical matters of water-extraction rates, hours of operation, and traffic patterns — and, dependent as it is upon other passages in the town’s bylaws, it lacks the unitary simplicity and strength of a stand-alone document.

But POWWR and others have already pointed out those weaknesses. In response, they’ve been ignored. Frustrated and rebuffed, POWWR sought a way to be heard, and that search led it to the discovery of the rights-based ordinance.

POWWR advocacy of the rights-based ordinance thus represents a major step forward, since adoption of it would obviate the need for a regulatory ordinance. (Drillers who are not allowed in in the first place don’t need their drilling regulated.) That being the case, POWWR now views its participation in continued discussion about ways to strengthen the regulatory ordinance as contradictory and counter-productive to its current primary goal. Such discussion would also represent POWWR’s betrayal of all those who have supported POWWR in its efforts to find a way to speak a resounding NO.

Why have Shapleigh officials not been responsive to citizen input? And to what extent can that behavior be attributed to influence by Nestle? Those are questions that strike at the heart of the democratic process, and the public deserves clear answers to them.

Town officials’ serious consideration of the rights-based ordinance would go far to reassure Shapleigh citizens that their elected figures are responsive to their constituencies and are above reproach; their support of the regulatory ordinance, and especially of one that is markedly weak, only fuels growing suspicions of base pandering.

POWWR members have come to none of these conclusions lightly or without studied consideration. Most especially do they realize that the current weight of legal opinion opposes rights-based ordinances, so that the battle for change can be expected to be long and hard. That opposition, however, only exposes the extent to which our laws, before they’re improved upon, often actually subvert justice.

Here, democracy demanded will keep the very water under our feet from being declared a commodity available for the taking by a giant, for-profit, multi-national company. It will give voice to an aquifer unable to defend itself, and to all those of us that are dependent on it – people, plants, animals, and the ecosystems of which we are all a part. And it will make us proud as we say, “If we do not have a democracy where we live, where on earth DO we have it?”


Nestle-Connected Consultant Writing “Nestle Friendly” Water Ordinance in Shapleigh

Nestle’s record of interfering in small town politics is well known, and we’re seeing it yet again in Shapleigh, where the voter-mandated water extraction ordinance – clearly intended to limit the impact of extraction on the town – is being written by a consultant that Nestle referred to the Board of Selectman.

From the Water in the News blog:

The last draft made available for review, did not have any language limiting the amount of water allowed to be extracted or any hours of operation which have been asked for repeatedly by citizens at past hearings. A new addition to the ordinance is allowing existing water extraction activities to continue for three years before applying for a permit. I sure hope this is not what it sounds like. Remember the 16 borewells in Vernon Walker Game Management Area? Guess we will need to ask what this means for those well heads.

Mr. Tewhey has been hired by the Shapleigh Selectpeople to write the towns Large Scale Water Ordinance which in its current state is very biased in Nestle Corporation’s favor. Mr. Tewey was referred to the selectmen by Nestle.

Who’s ordinance is this? Nestlé’s or Shapleigh’s?

It’s vintage Nestle. They’re practiced at interfering in small town politics, and repeatedly refer consultants with strong connections to the water bottling giant.

That citizen concerns aren’t met, but Nestle’s are – a powerful reason why small towns can’t trust the food & beverage giant.