Meet the 13-Year-Old Taking On Bottled Water

AlterNet/By Maude Barlow, published Sept. 6, 2012

We should be encouraging the youth in our society to do exactly what Robyn is doing — engaging in local politics, acting to protect the environment and questioning the world around her.
In the last year, municipalities across Ontario and the rest of the country have begun taking a much-needed stand to protect local water sources. Since  World Water Day  in 2011, nine municipalities across Canada have become Blue Communities with many well on their way.

Blue Communities  are municipalities that adopt a water commons framework by: banning the sale of bottled water in public facilities and at municipal events, recognizing water as a human right, and promoting publicly financed, owned and operated water and waste-water services.

The success of the Blue Communities project in Ontario can be mainly attributed to Robyn Hamlyn who has met with 18 mayors and councillors. She talks about the environmental impacts of bottled water, the preposterous amount of profit bottled water companies make off communities’ lakes and streams and the stricter standards with which tap water is regulated. People who hear Hamlyn speak are captivated by her charm, passion and foresight to think long term about our water sources. And the incredible part of this success story is that Hamlyn is only  13 years old .

Her success has not only caught the attention of mayors, city councillors, environmentalists and media but it has also caught the attention of industry and organizations that believe water should be sold for profit. Hamlyn’s determination and effectiveness has provoked responses from Nestlé and Enviroment Probe, an organization that promotes the sale of water as a commodity.

John Challinor, Director of Corporate Affairs for Nestlé, has written letters to local newspapers saying there are other initiatives that the 13-year-old and others “can and should focus on to help preserve, protect and strengthen our water systems that are more effective than targeting bottled water.” More recently, Essie Solomon, an intern for  Environment Probe , wrote an article in the  Financial Post , chiding municipalities for taking “their advice from a 13-year-old.” It was shocking to read Environment Probe’s attack on Hamlyn who has been volunteering her free time to meet with municipal councils across Ontario to talk about the impact of bottled water on current water sources, climate change and social justice.

We should be encouraging the youth in our society to do exactly what Robyn is doing — engaging in local politics, acting to protect the environment and questioning the world around her. Solomon, whose article is condescendingly titled ” Don’t bottle 13-year-old’s water wisdom ,” would do well to pay attention to Hamlyn’s work rather than toe the line of an organization that promotes the sale of water for profit.

It’s also insulting to mayors and councillors to imply they do not examine critically the information presented to them. Not only is Hamlyn dispelling important myths about bottled water but she is also raising important issues that Canada is facing.

We believe municipal governments and other public bodies should not spend public funds providing bottled water at meetings or events, when a cheaper and more sustainable public alternative is readily available on tap. It simply doesn’t make financial or environmental sense.

Municipalities are at a crossroads and face pressing infrastructure needs in the wake of budget cuts and conditional funding from the Harper government. The Harper government is targeting water and wastewater services for privatization. PPP Canada explicitly promotes privatization of public services by only allocating the $1.2 billion under the P3 Canada Fund to municipalities that let corporations deliver water and wastewater, transportation and communications services on a for-profit basis.

The Harper government has shut down public debate on many critical water issues and amended environmental legislation that will reverberate for generations to come. So we are heartened to see municipalities take on critical water issues and provide forums for much needed debate and it is in them that we place our hope.

The Blue Communities Project is a joint initiative of the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). This project builds on a decade of Water Watch work in coalition with many other groups to protect public water services and challenge the bottled water industry.  Click here  to learn more about the Blue Communities Project.

USA Springs deal is muddied again

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

 

The detention of two executives of Malom Group AG – and the difficulties of the Swiss company in proving two Brazilian bonds it holds are legitimate – has held up closing on a $60 million loan that would enable bankrupt USA Springs to complete its controversial water bottling plant in Nottingham.

According to a Malom emergency filing, filed Jan. 3 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manchester, Swiss authorities took Malom president Hans-Jurg Lips into “investigative custody” on Sept. September 28, 2011, weeks before the loan was supposed to be closed in October.

According to a memorandum from Lips included in the Jan. 3 filing, Lips said he was accused of issuing guarantees from NAS Ltd. – a U.S. surety company — without sufficient cover. Lips was held for 12 weeks and questioned five times regarding NAS. His partner, Martin Schlapfer, a director at both NAS Ltd and Malom, was still in custody on Dec. 29, when Lips’ memorandum was signed, Lips said in the memo. Both Schlapfer and Lips own NAS Operations AG, a Swiss subsidiary of NAS Ltd.

A detention in Switzerland related to financial issues is not the same as an arrest in the United States, explained USA Springs attorney Alan L. Braunstein. Swiss authorities are more likely to detain executives and freeze their assets at an earlier stage of a securities investigation, he said.

However it is categorized, because of the detentions the company’s “entire business came to a complete standstill,” Lips said, although the partners were able to keep it “going in some areas,” through James Warras, Malom’s U.S. executive vice president who is based in Las Vegas, Nev.

In addition, some of Malom’s assets were being blocked by Swiss and Lichtenstein banks as of September.

The detention was a “significant event,” said Malom’s Manchester attorney Bill Gannon, but it is not necessarily the one mentioned in his emergency motion, in which he said an event “outside of Malom’s control” prevented “Malom’s president from finalizing the financing” and “stymied” the closing of the deal.

Gannon said he could not further elaborate on that event because of attorney-client privilege.

In any case, according to the filing, the process can now begin again and close before Feb. 29 at the latest, according to Malom.

But there are difficulties ahead.

While there are no other restrictions on Lips and Malom, the USA Spring financing is now based on two Brazilian treasury bills worth more than $1.2 billion, at least when they mature in 2036.

The problem with these notes is that they are part of a series of paper notes released by Brazil’s military dictatorship starting in the 1970s.

But “there are also fraudulent documents floating in the market,” according to a Brazilian law firm’s lengthy explanation of the matter, and Brazil, which now issues notes electronically, “generically” denies them.

“Brazil, of course, would like and actually need to eliminate this older debts but wants to do so on its on terms and at prices that are at extreme terms discounts to face value,” according to the law firm.

“The Brazilian government website gives a vague statement that these older LTN (treasury notes) are fraudulent and worthless. Nothing more, nothing less.” But unofficially, investors working “behind the scenes” have been able to get notes verified, the law firm said.

These notes are genuine, asserts the law firm, and it claims to have extensive documentation to prove it, but it is still a lengthy process. Malom is also exploring swapping the notes with someone who already has electronic notes, or simply selling them.

The problem is that because of the reputation for fraud, every person involved in the deal has to be reassured.

“It tends to be a repetitive process that goes on and on,” said Gannon.

USA Springs and its creditors are concerned about Malom’s difficulties, and is in negotiations about alternatives, if “in the event that Malom does not close.”

In the meantime, it will share information with the creditors “so they can assess Malom, its intentions and its credibilities.” — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

via http://www.nhbr.com/businessnewsstatenews/945904-257/usa-springs-deal-is-muddied-again.html

USA Springs Bailout Delayed Again

USA Springs bailout delayed again

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

 

Money to bail out USA Springs still has not arrived, forcing creditors to consider alternatives, including liquidation and foreclosure.

Malom Group AG — the bankrupt company’s Swiss financier – was supposed to deposit $7 million on Dec. 9 into the account of USA Springs, which is trying to build a controversial bottling plant near the border of Nottingham and Barrington.

The payment was supposed to be the first installment of a $19.3 million bridge loan as part of a $60 million financing deal.

But USA Springs told the court on Dec. 15 that the money hadn’t arrived, making it Malom’s fourth missed deadline since Oct. 3.

Attorneys for USA Springs asked for a new deadline of Jan. 6, and the judge agreed to the extension, which is the fifth since the company filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2008.

A hearing on other issues — such as attorneys’ compensation — was set for Jan. 26.

An unnamed insider investor, with the bankruptcy court’s protection, has paid Malom a $1.2 million loan fee, a fee that was supposed to be paid back at closing, along with a potential $600,000 success fee.

If Malom doesn’t come through with the initial financing, the bankruptcy court – in its order – said it would seek the full $60 million from the firm.

Jan. 26 will also be set aside for consideration of a motion filed by Save Our Groundwater, an organization that opposes the USA Springs proposal and is seeking more documents on the redacted agreement between Malom.

USA Springs has spent $17 million over the past decade trying to get a permit to withdraw 300,000 gallons a day from the groundwater in the face of tenacious opposition from SOG and other opponents.

But shortly after the state granted the major permits, the company ran out of money, and the half-finished project has languished ever since. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

link to article: http://www.nhbr.com/businessnewsstatenews/943904-257/usa-springs-bailout-delayed-again.html

USA Springs Loan Deal Remains Elusive

from New Hampshire Business Review: December 7, 2011

For the third time in as many months, the bankrupt USA Springs has been unable to close on a $60 million loan because initial funding from its Swiss underwriter, Malom Group AG, still has not arrived.

The deal, which would enable the company to resume construction on its controversial partially completed bottling plant on the border of Nottingham and Barrington, was originally supposed to close on Oct. 3, with the arrival of $19.3 million bridge loan in the bank account controlled by USA Springs’ attorney.

But that deadline was extended twice until Dec. 2 because of financial turmoil in Europe, according to Malom. In November, Malom said it would rely on the sale of Brazilian securities to raise that initial bridge loan.

At Monday’s bankruptcy court hearing in Manchester, attorneys for USA Springs said Malom missed that deadline as well because it found “a better offer” elsewhere, and instead $7 million would arrive at the close of business Friday. The rest of the bridge loan would arrive by the end of the year, the company said.

“We want to make sure that Malom is true to its word,” said the company’s attorney, Alan L. Braunstein.

Malom received a $1.2 million loan fee in advance from an unnamed USA insider. That fee would be paid back at closing along with a potential $600,000 success fee

Braunstein said that Malom would pay extra interest and attorney’s fees for the delay, but the main creditor, Roswell Commercial Mortgage LLC, wanted to see any changes in writing and subpoenaed a Malom executive for a deposition.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge J. Michael Deasy granted another extension of the deal.

“At the end of the day, it’s up to the parties to decide what they want to do, but at some point this thing has to go or not to go. I don’t know what time that is,” said Deasy.

But the judge added that Roswell and other creditors were understandably skeptical and that the whole bankruptcy rescue plan was in danger of “blowing up.”

The future of the USA Springs plant has never been certain. USA Springs has spent $17 million to build the plant since 1997, but it took nearly a decade to overcome the opposition of residents and environmental groups before the company finally obtained state and federal permits.

State regulators eventually sided with USA Springs, but the permit fight drained its resources and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008. The project has languished in bankruptcy ever since, after several other financial arrangements fell apart. Malom has been the most promising deal thus far.

Meanwhile, opponents have raised question with potential investors about to whether the permits were still valid — a claim that USA Springs cited as a reason to keep the names of the investors secret.

But the organization Save Our Groundwater filed a motion to find out the names of foreign investors, arguing that they might use international trade agreements to trump state environmental laws.

USA Springs maintains that SOG doesn’t have the standing to make its motion because it has no financial interest in the deal and is instead trying to sabotage it.

The court – at the request of both parties – put that matter off until after Friday, when it will be clearer whether the Malom deal will close after all.

Another hearing has been tentatively scheduled for December 15. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

link to article: http://www.nhbr.com/businessnewsstatenews/942294-257/usa-springs-loan-deal-remains-elusive.html

Opposition strong in Barrington, Nottingham as USA Springs seeks new funds

By SCOTT E. KINNEY
skinney@fosters.com

Sunday, July 10, 2011

NOTTINGHAM — For years commuters along Route 4 between Barrington and Nottingham have driven by a rather innocuous and incomplete building along the roadside.

The building is the physical property of USA Springs, a water bottling company nearly 10 years, and counting, in the making. The structure was just beginning to take shape on the 100-acre parcel, which straddles the Barrington/Nottingham border, when the business declared bankruptcy…

…Before the filing the company had invested the better part of a decade and millions of dollars in securing the necessary permits to draw water from the local aquifer, which it planned to bottle, shipping most of it overseas…

…New investors now could mean new life for the flagging company…

…But several neighborhood groups opposed to the project essentially from its inception say the plant would have a negative effect on the water supply for Barrington, Nottingham and beyond.

They add that even if the funding is there, the completion of the plant, and its ability to bottle water, is far from assured…

Read the full article: http://www.fosters.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011707109883