Protest at Portland, ME Law Firm

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On Friday, November 14, 2008, Maine youth teamed with Native Forest Network and Defending Water for Life to protest a Portland law firm for its role in the commodification of Maine’s groundwater.

People from across Maine brought trash bags full of empty plastic water bottles to Pierce Atwood to demonstrate the physical ramifications of the corporate bottling industry for Maine’s landfills.

The Portland-based law firm represents both Nestlé Waters North America and the Nature Conservancy in their water acquisition projects throughout Maine.

Nestlé, Nature Conservancy, and Pierce Atwood share both financial resources and leadership in order to pursue an agenda of commodifying Maine’s groundwater. Young Maine residents and their allies gathered in Portland to protest against Pierce Atwood’s role in the corporate theft of Maine’s water. In particular, those gathered are concerned about Nestlé’s continued legal action against the people of Fryeburg as well as the Nature Conservancy’s refusal to remove commercial water extraction from the development easements attached to the Plum Creek development plan for the North Woods.

The town of Fryeburg has been battling a Nestlé expansion project for over two years. As of October 2008, on four separate occasions the Fryeburg community has denied Nestlé the permits needed to expand its local water extraction. Each time, Nestlé has appealed the decision and brought suit against the people of Fryebrug, leaving the community struggling with crippling legal expenses. In September, the multinational corporation filed its fourth suit in the Maine Supreme Judicial Court against the small rural town of 3,000 residents. “How many times does Fryeburg have to say No for Nestlé to respect their town’s democratic decision?” questioned Andy Smith of Waterville, “this type of legal action is not how good neighbors treat each other.”

Farther north, another client of Pierce Atwood, the Nature Conservancy is expected to take control of over 266,000 acres through conservation easements related to the Plum Creek planned development of the Moosehead Region. Despite numerous concerns raised during public hearings by those opposed to corporate development of the North Woods, commerical water extraction is still a possibility in the Nature Conservancy’s easements. “It seems like the Nature Conservancy has really put the “con” into their conservation,” says Emily Posner of Defending Water for Life, “when the average person thinks of
environmental conservation, they do not think of the North Woods being littered with diesel trucks shipping out the region’s water.”

Pierce Atwood is a major contributor, as is Nestlé Water’s North America, to the Nature Conservancy of Maine. Executives from both organizations also sit on the non-profit’s corporate conservation board. Nestlé Waters North America—a subsidiary of Nestlé S.A.–is the largest food processing corporation in the world. Both Native Forest Network and Defending Water for Life are concerned that without local consent and often times even public input, Nestlé is bulldozing its way through Maine’s democratic processes in order to commandeer the great sand and gravel aquifers that run throughout Maine; the very water that should be a resource and common good for Maine’s future generations, not profits for giant corporations.