Nestle balks at US Forest Service water withdrawal terms

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Nestlé is objecting to the U.S. Forest Service’s terms for issuing it a new permit to continue piping water out of a national forest, saying the agency is overstepping its authority and infringing on the company’s water rights.

Nestlé Waters North America detailed its concerns publicly for the first time in a 79-page document submitted to the Forest Service. The company, the largest producer of bottled water in the country, has long drawn water from the San Bernardino National Forest to produce Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water.

The agency in March released its proposal for granting the company a new permit to operate its wells and pipelines in the mountains near San Bernardino for five years. The Forest Service took up the issue after an investigation last year by The Desert Sun revealed that the agency has allowed Nestlé to keep using water from the national forest under a permit that lists 1988 as the expiration date.

Nestlé Waters said in a statement Friday that it’s concerned “the action proposed by the Forest Service would disrupt established water rights and the long-standing legal process of regulating water use in the State of California.”

“The proposals currently being suggested by the Forest Service would create a situation in which the federal government overrides more than a century of California law,” the company said. “This would have potentially far-reaching consequences for businesses, agencies, individuals and other water rights holders throughout the state.”

Nestlé piped 36 million gallons of water from the national forest last year to produce bottled water. That has sparked an emotional debate during the drought, with opponents arguing that taking water harms the environment and wildlife along Strawberry Creek — and that the impacts on the ecosystem need to be scientifically assessed.

Three environmental groups sued the Forest Service in October in an attempt to shut down the 4.5-mile pipeline that Nestlé uses to collect water. Opponents also submitted a petition that they said was signed by more than 280,000 people demanding the agency carry out a “thorough and unbiased” environmental review.

Water from Arrowhead Springs was first bottled for sale more than a century ago. It’s named after the famed arrowhead-shaped natural rock formation on a mountainside north of San Bernardino and the springs near it — both hot and cold. The hot springs were once the central attraction of a glamorous resort, which closed in the late 1950s and now stands vacant at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains.

The company’s water pipelines and horizontal wells on the mountainside have been authorized under various permits since 1929. Forest Service officials have said Nestlé’s 1978 permit, which was issued to predecessor Arrowhead Puritas Waters Inc., remains in effect until they decide on the renewal application.

Nestle raised its “legal concerns” in a document submitted to the Forest Service on May 2. It released the document Friday.

Nestlé took issue with a proposed management plan that would require it to modify its operations if monitoring showed the extraction of water was affecting the flow of the creek. The company said that plan, as it’s now proposed, “exceeds the Forest Service’s authority.”

The agency’s proposal “disregards the state laws that administer water rights both on and off federal land,” Nestle said in the document. It said that would “create a problematic precedent nationwide.”

Nestlé said it owns rights to collect spring water from Arrowhead Springs, and those rights are “among the most senior water rights” in California.

The company said its ownership of spring water in Strawberry Canyon “can be traced to a possessory claim to the waters” recorded in 1865 by David Noble Smith — who first built a simple “infirmary” hotel where people eased their ailments at the hot springs. Nestlé also pointed to a subsequent U.S. patent obtained by Smith and recorded in 1882. It said the water rights were upheld in court in 1931 and have not been legally challenged since.

Nestlé said the Forest Service’s proposal is a “substantial departure” from the company’s previous 10-year permits, and from its renewal request. The Forest Service has not been following its own regulations, Nestle said, arguing that under its proposal the agency would regulate the company’s “water rights by controlling its water collection.”

The Forest Service has received hundreds of letters about its proposal, including a few from the bottled water industry. The International Bottled Water Association and Nestlé competitor CG Roxane LLC, which sells Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water, have raised similar criticisms.

Many of the people who sent emails and letters voiced opposition to letting the company take water from public land, especially given the longstanding lack of independent studies assessing the impacts on the environment.

Bill Gates of Palm Desert called it “downright insane” for Nestlé to be allowed to reap big profits from the public’s water supply while homeowners face stiff watering restrictions and are letting their yards go brown.

Some of the people who object to the bottling operation say it’s outrageous the Forest Service doesn’t collect fees for the water itself. The agency has been charging Nestle an annual permit fee of $524 per year.

Under that longstanding arrangement, the company collects water from its pipeline in a roadside tank and transports the water in tanker trucks to a plant in Ontario, one of five Nestlé bottling plants in California.

In some of the 568 letters that have been posted so far on a Forest Service website, critics question whether the company actually holds valid water rights. Greg Ballmer, president of the Tri-County Conservation League, said an initial review of historical documents in a local archive “has failed to corroborate the validity of Nestlé’s claim to the water.” He urged the Forest Service to investigate.

Stiv Wilson, campaign director for the Story of Stuff Project, one of the three groups suing the Forest Service, said in a letter that while Nestlé claims water rights, “public records show that the Forest Service has not done its due diligence with regard to determining whether Nestlé owns a valid water right in the first place.”

The proposed permit would allow Nestlé to keep using two water collection tunnels, 10 horizontal wells, water pipelines and other infrastructure in the national forest.

In a letter on behalf of California’s State Water Resources Control Board, Senior Water Resource Control Engineer Victor Vasquez offered assistance to the Forest Service and said the “basis of right” hasn’t been clearly defined in the federal agency’s proposal. He said the national forest should require the company to “identify its basis of right, and to what extent the water being diverted is percolating groundwater, surface water subject to appropriation, or developed spring water” for each of the locations where water is collected.

Nestlé noted that the state is in charge of administering water rights, and said its rights aren’t “subject to Forest Service discretion or control.”

If the Forest Service imposes controls that infringe upon those rights, the company said, “all parties with state-based water rights will be threatened, the hierarchy of senior water rights undermined, and long-term economic expectations thrown into doubt.”

The company made clear it has legal options, saying the current proposal could hinder its ability to collect water and entitle it to seek “just compensation.”

As an alternative, Nestlé Waters proposed voluntary measures. The company said its voluntary management plan would include rigorous monitoring and its scientists would “continually address the environmental conditions around the spring sites and respond appropriately to any changes.”

The company said it hopes the government will reissue the permit in line with its comments.

John Miller, a public affairs officer with the Forest Service in San Bernardino, said it would be premature to respond.

“The Forest Service has received quite a bit of input,” Miller said in an email, “and our next step is to organize and begin evaluating the materials submitted.”


Bay-Deltal Tribunal Puts State and National Legal System on Trial: California’s Proposed Delta Tunnels Case to be Heard

“What would the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem say?” is the question a panel of judges will consider when examining a case brought before them in the first-ever Bay Area Rights of Nature Tribunal based on an international rights of nature tribunal held in Paris during the climate talks last December. It’s a question gaining ground as dozens of U.S. and international communities and a handful of countries have begun recognizing rights and legal standing for ecosystems as a new framework for environmental protection.

The tribunal will be held on April 30 at the Nick Rodriguez Community Center in Antioch, CA 9:30 AM-2 PM. (RSVP on Facebook here)

The case being brought before the tribunal address nature’s, community, and human rights violations presented by Governor Brown’s water policies, and particularly his proposed Twin Tunnel plan, which would significantly reduce flows needed for Delta waterways and fish. The tribunal is being put on by the Bay Area Rights of Nature Alliance (BARONA)—a network of organizations seeking to explore how recognizing legal standing for ecosystems can put new governance tools in the hands of communities.

In addition to detailing rights violations, Tribunal witnesses and experts will also offer solutions to water flow and economic development challenges that protect, not injure, human and nature’s rights. “We are pleased to work with BARONA to make the case for the San Francisco Bay-Delta,” says Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director for Restore the Delta, a group that has been working to fight the governor’s plan and support sound water alternatives.“The Delta is an imperiled national treasure — a home for wildlife, fisheries, and human culture. After 30 years of over-pumping, the Delta Tunnels proposal would complete the destruction of the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas. Those who view the Delta as simply another water source to be drained are in for a fight. The people and wildlife of the Delta will not be erased.”

“The proposed project not only violate nature’s rights and human rights, but also illustrates that our laws legalize such harms,” adds Linda Sheehan of the Earth Law Center. “This Tribunal is about confronting a system of laws that places people and nature in harm’s way, and demonstrating a new way forward.”

Judges for the tribunal include: renowned eco-philosopher Joanna Macy, governmental liaison for the Winnemem Wintu tribe Gary Mulcahy, Movement Rights director, Shannon Biggs and others to be confirmed.

Rights of nature is a global movement that has been named one of the Top Ten Grassroots Movements Taking on the World by Shift Magazine. International Tribunals in Paris, Lima and Quito have recognized nature’s rights, as has the Pope and other leading figures. “Rather than treating nature as property under the law, rights of nature acknowledges that the ecosystem—in this case the Delta itself—is a rights-bearing entity,” concluded Shannon Biggs, Director of Movement Rights, a group that assists California communities pass laws that place the rights of communities and ecosystems above corporate interests. “Mendocino County and Santa Monica have already recognized these rights in order to ban fracking and develop sustainability initiatives.”

This event is free and open to the public, but will require an RSVP. Donations encouraged. Please mark your calendars and join the growing movement for nature’s rights.


Loophole in Water Law Opens Way for Bottling Plant

A large beverage bottling operation could receive a free pass to use all it wants of a small Northern California community’s groundwater supply, thanks to an obscure allowance in state water laws and a protective trade agreement.

Crystal Geyser has plans to launch a new beverage bottling operation in the small northern California town of Mount Shasta. In response to California’s drought, locals here cut water use by about 40 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to officials. However, an exemption in newly drafted groundwater regulations could give the giant company leeway to use unlimited water from the community’s underground supply. The company has sworn it will take an insignificant volume of water from the ground and that local wells will not be affected.

The concern among locals, however, is that there is nothing in the law that will curtail Crystal Geyser’s use. That’s because the city of Mount Shasta’s groundwater supply is considered to be a “volcanic basin,” not an “alluvial basin” – a geologic distinction that carries significant consequences under a set of new water use laws.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the newly passed legislation celebrated as a potential fix to the state’s aquifer overdraft problems, only addresses alluvial basins. Alluvial basins occur mostly in low-lying valleys, where substrate like sand or gravel is saturated with large volumes of water that flows in from upslope sources. SGMA’s new regulations are based on Bulletin 118, a Department of Water Resources list that names several hundred of the state’s important groundwater sources. All are alluvial basins.

Tim Godwin, an engineering geologist with the California Department of Water Resources, says there are two basic types of groundwater sources recognized by scientists – alluvial basins in valley areas, where river sediments have accumulated for long periods of time, and aquifers in mountain regions, where the ground consists mostly of solid or fractured rock.

“[The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act] only focuses on alluvial basins with lots of groundwater production,” he says.

An alluvial basin is characterized by predictable “radial flow in permeable, porous medium,” he says, adding that this flow pattern makes managing, predicting and limiting water use relatively easy.

But groundwater in mountain areas is very different. It doesn’t move through the earth in the relatively homogeneous way that water generally seeps through the alluvial sand or gravel soils of valley regions.

“It’s very difficult to understand connectivity and flow in these basins,” he says. “So, as you start to enter into the fractured rock areas, like around Mount Shasta, you have combinations of conditions that make understanding how the groundwater behaves really challenging.”

Fractures, porous volcaniclastic rock and tubes created by lava flows all serve as conduits for water, he explains. Groundwater in areas of solid bedrock flows in even less predictable ways.

Godwin says that roughly 98 percent of the state’s groundwater use comes from alluvial aquifers, meaning few people will be affected by the exclusion of volcanic and fractured rock aquifers from SGMA.

But for Californians who depend on mountain groundwater deposits, the exemption of such basins from the widely heralded new groundwater management laws seems an egregious omission. In the Mount Shasta region, the water that flows just below the surface ultimately winds up in the Sacramento River system – an increasingly troubled ecosystem in which native species are vanishing and on which millions of people, and vast sprawls of farmland, depend.

“Leaving the Sacramento River’s source region out of SGMA is like trying to cure peripheral vascular disease without addressing the heart,” says Vicki Gold, who lives just outside of the city of Mount Shasta.

Godwin says that aquifers that won’t be covered by SGMA may still be monitored and regulated by county officials. But Gold says she and other locals don’t trust that county authorities will do so in a fair way.

Even if Siskiyou County wishes to bar Crystal Geyser from pumping the region’s groundwater, the beverage giant may have its way with local water resources through a new business-friendly trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP has been drafted through years of negotiations between the United States and 11 nations surrounding the Pacific Rim, and it could be activated this year. The partnership will work as a boon to economic growth and will essentially allow multinational business ventures to skirt local regulations.

Since Crystal Geyser is owned by a Japanese pharmaceutical firm called Otsuka, the Mount Shasta beverage bottling project could be protected from any restrictions imposed by state or county laws.

Nancy Price, the national co-chair with the Alliance for Democracy, says the TPP will allow corporations to sue governments in a TPP-specific court if any laws infringe on the profits of foreign-owned ventures.

“What if groundwater sources are reduced or springs near Mount Shasta go dry after a really severe drought, and if the community decides that the amount of water taken for the bottling plant impacts these resources and needs to be reduced?” says Price. “The Japanese corporation that owns Crystal Geyser could sue the county by taking a case to protect their ‘investor rights’ in a secret international trade court that bypasses our U.S. court system and allows for no appeal.”

According to Gold, when Coca-Cola operated the bottling plant now being resuscitated by Crystal Geyser, local groundwater supplies dwindled.

“Wells went dry when Coca-Cola was pumping,” Gold says. “People had gravel and sand in their pipes.”

Raven Stevens, the community liaison for the Mount Shasta Gateway Neighborhood Association, moved to the area four years ago but has talked with many of her neighbors about groundwater quality and reliability in recent years. She says at least six wells within half a mile of the bottling plant went dry or almost dry between 2005 and 2009. In 2010, the beverage maker left town.

“Then everyone’s water issues went away and didn’t even return through the worst drought in history,” she says.

Stevens says that Coca-Cola representatives informed of the well issues at the time said that because only some local wells, and not all, were experiencing issues the problem must have been related to the landowners’ pipes or the wells themselves.

“But we’re in a volcanic aquifer,” Stevens says, explaining that the unpredictable movement of groundwater in such aquifers makes Coca-Cola’s straight-line conclusion much too simplistic to trust.

Greg Plucker, community development director with Siskiyou County, says no records exist of resident complaints about groundwater supplies during Coca-Cola’s use of the bottling facility. Moreover, he says a review by the Regional Water Quality Control Board in 2001 determined that extracting 450 gallons (1,700 liters) per minute from the aquifer below the plant would not negatively influence local groundwater water supplies. He says Crystal Geyser has plans to use much less than that.

Steve Burns, with the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, which is representing Crystal Geyser, confirms this. He says the plan is to draw 80 gallons per minute – or 115,000 gallons per day – from the site’s production well and, perhaps in several years, if the project is successful, double that use. Never, he says, will water use on the Crystal Geyser site approach what Coca-Cola pumped from the ground.

Stevens believes this is misinformation. She says that an additional domestic well on the property will have the capacity to take up to 320 gallons per minute. Eventually, she warns, Crystal Geyser’s project will be pumping at least the volume of water that allegedly drained locals’ water supplies seven years ago.

“There is nothing legally stopping them from taking all the water they want,” she says.

According to Burns, the domestic well will take a fraction the water that the production well will produce. “I don’t care how much water could come out of [the domestic well],” Burns says. “How many toilets would you need to flush to even come close to matching that production level?”

Following a lawsuit filed last August by a citizens’ group demanding a thorough review of Crystal Geyser’s proposed project, the company announced it would conduct an environmental review to ensure its bottling plant does no harm to the community. The first step in that process is submitting review applications to local agencies.

At press time, Burns said the county application had been submitted months prior and another application would be turned in “any day now” to the city of Mount Shasta. He says it may take the city and the Siskiyou County Air Pollution Control District another two months to determine whether or not an environmental impact report is actually needed. An EIR, he says, could take many months more.

Plucker, with Siskiyou County, says that even though California’s incoming groundwater laws will have no effect on the volcanic basin beneath Mount Shasta, an environmental review could potentially derail or stall the project.

Stevens feels the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act will adequately serve communities in low valleys but fails communities like Mount Shasta.

“The problem is that SGMA disregards areas like the top of the Sacramento River, where we are,” she says. “It’s no wonder Crystal Geyser has left places like Calistoga and Bakersfield, because they know it will be 20 years, and maybe 40, before the state turns its eyes up here.”

Alastair Bland is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. He can be reached via Twitter at @allybland.


Looking Back at the Cochabamba Water Revolt – 15 Years Ago

The Legacy and New Echoes of the Water War – 15 Years On

It is impossible to overstate the impact of the people’s victory in Cochabamba against Bechtel. At a time when winning real victories seemed like a distant dream, we suddenly saw that it was still possible to win, even against a giant U.S. multinational. That truth reverberated around the round, spreading hope and, most of all, courage, wherever it traveled.
– Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything

Fifteen years ago this month here in Cochabamba, I found myself in the middle of a set of events that came to be known as the Cochabamba Water Revolt. Citizens here took to the streets and shut down a city of half a million people, three times, to take back control of their water system from a foreign corporation.

Our struggle had a profound historical, political, human dignity and respect. We drove out one of the most voracious transnationals on the planet, Bechtel.
– Oscar Olivera, key leader of the Water Revolt, Cochabamba

The story began when the World Bank coerced Bolivia to put the city’s water up for lease, landing it under the control of a company that raised water rates overnight by more than 50% and in many cases far higher. Something as basic as a running tap was being pushed beyond the economic reach of many families. The people rebelled. The government responded with tear gas, bullets and death. The corporation was forced to leave. In the midst of it all I was able to use an Internet still in its infancy to discover and report Bechtel as the corporation behind the scenes, get the story out across the world, and later to help launch the global campaign that forced Bechtel to drop its $50 million legal retaliation against the Bolivia people. It was all an extraordinary experience.

The Cochabamba Water Revolt was a turning point in the history of our water justice movement. The courageous people of Bolivia showed the world how to stand up to bullies and that public water is worth fighting for. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Bolivians for their leadership and commitment.
– Maude Barlow, chair, Council of Canadians

In the years since, the Cochabamba Water Revolt has been the subject of a full length drama on film, scores of documentaries, many articles, and a collection of academic papers almost as numerous as the multitudes in the streets those days in April 2000. To help mark the 15th anniversary of these remarkable events, the Democracy Center team has written a new collection of articles about the legacy of those events and their echoes today.


In There’s Something About Water Thomas Mc Donagh looks at how the battle over water in Bolivia echoes today in a water rebellion in his native Ireland, with just as much potential to upend an entire political system. In Bolivia, 15 Years on from the Water War Aldo Orellana, a Bolivian who was part of the Revolt, writes about the current situation in Cochabamba and the struggle’s legacy for the broader water movement. In 15 Years After the Water Revolt, Echoes in New Cases of Corporate Abuse Philippa de Boissière from the U.K. writes about how the corporate-driven abuses suffered by Cochabamba are being repeated today in Peru and Colombia, again with natural resources as the target. In The Case That Blew the Lid Off the World Bank’s Secret Courts, I have an article looking at the international campaign that beat back Bechtel’s $50 million legal retaliation after the Revolt and the lessons it holds for today’s battles over a pair of new global trade agreements, TTIP and TPP. Also, below you can find links to a deeper history of the Water Revolt, my dispatches from the streets in 2000, and more.

That extraordinary moment in April 2000 in the struggle against the giant Water Corporation Bechtel was an unprecedented expression of Peoples protagonism in intervention on the agenda of water and people’s rights. This is a revolt that lives today in many places and struggles around the world.
– Brid Brennan, Transnational Institute, the Netherlands

It was a powerful thing to have been such a direct witness to history and to have played a role in communicating that story around the world. It is still a story that still has much to say to us today and we are proud to bring it to you, in ways both new and old.

By Jim Shultz

Read More About the Water Revolt and its Echoes Today:

Testimonies from Bolivia: Bolivia’s deposed President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada faces criminal murder charges in Bolivia for his oversight of massacres that killed more than 60 people in 2003. Earlier this month Mercer University in Georgia refused to show video testimonies which we recorded with the families of those killed when it invited Lozada to speak to students about ‘political freedom.’ Since he fled Lozada has lived in self-imposed exile in suburban Maryland. We’d like to be sure 1,000 people see what Mercer wouldn’t show.
Please help us share these powerful new testimonies. 


Oregon Environmental Quality Commission rejects petition for more pesticide regulation

Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission today rejected a petition from Northwest Environmental Advocates to increase regulation of pesticides that can harm salmon and steelhead on the endangered species list.

The commission voted 5-0 to reject the petition from Nina Bell, the environmental group’s director. Among other measures, Bell’s petition would have required significantly increased buffer zones for spraying certain pesticides near streams.

The petition focused on pesticides that the National Marine Fisheries Service has identified as harmful to fish and other aquatic life. The federal reviews indicate that some pesticides are harmful even when used according to label instructions approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, the petition notes.

Farm and forest groups opposed the petition, noting that pending lawsuits have challenged NMFS’ conclusions. Critics say NMFS’ assumptions about pesticide use don’t reflect what’s actually happening on the ground.

DEQ staff also opposed the petition, saying that it hopes to expand voluntary pesticide stewardship partnerships to address pesticide pollution in priority watersheds.

The National Academy of Sciences is reviewing the scientific methods used to assess pesticide risks, DEQ staff noted. EPA will use the academy’s conclusions, due in 2013, to decide how to implement NMFS recommendations for pesticide use.

Bell has filed numerous successful lawsuits on water pollution issues, including the suit that prompted Portland to clean up sewage overflows. After the vote, Bell said she plans no further action in the short term.

But pesticide rules are subject to challenge under the Endangered Species Act: “Eventually,” she said, “that’s certainly something that could come up.”


Oregon’s Department of Agriculture Looks to Protect Waterways from Pesticide Runoff

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–October 16, 2012.  The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is looking to revamp the way it enforces the 1993 Agricultural Water Quality Management Act in order to decrease the amount of pesticides that end up in the state’s waterways from agricultural nonpoint source pollution. The new plan, which was unveiled last December, will work by taking a firmer approach than the current plan, which on sporadic complaints for enforcement and cooperative action by residents through soil and water conservation districts. While a new plan could benefit the health of Oregon residents and its waterways, it is in danger because politicians and some farmers believe it will be overly burdensome and increase costs.

Oregon is no stranger to problems with pesticide contamination of its water. The state of Oregon has a complex and diverse agricultural economy which ranges from forestry products to seed crops. Oregon also has thousands of miles of waterways. Roughly 15,000 miles of these waterways are listed as impaired, and nearly half of the 11,000-plus miles of waterways in Willamette River basin need more streamside plants, according to a 2009 state report. These plants help reduce the amount of run off by reducing the amount of pesticides that can reach water-ways. Zollner creek, which runs through the flatlands below Mt. Angel Abbey in the Willamette Valley, was found to be contaminated with pesticides, including the chemical diuron, which is harmful to fish and aquatic organisms. The stream has registered high levels of pesticides and fertilizers since the mid-1990s, and contamination levels detected in the Zollner and around Oregon are high enough to cause harm to aquatic life, including native salmon and steelhead.

ODA Director Katy Coba and her staff floated the new, firmer approach to water quality late last year: The state would target limited resources to the most polluted streams, ramp up education of landowners and accelerate restoration projects, tapping state and federal subsidies. Over time, trees, shrubs and grasses would shade and cool rivers and filter pesticide and fertilizer runoff, benefiting threatened salmon runs. Before-and-after water monitoring would confirm long-term results. As a last resort, ODA would pursue uncooperative landowners, starting with warnings, instead of relying on outside complaints for enforcement. The department unveiled the proposal in December before the state’s water quality committee, including an aerial photo of the threatened Zollner watershed.

This new plan is seen as an improvement from the old system, which relied on outside complaints and cooperative landowners for improvements, leaving gaps which threatened water quality. An example of the problems this faced was last year Marion County’s soil and water conservation district decided to upgrade water quality along Zollner Creek. Conservation districts are government entities that work with landowners and operators who are willing to help them manage and protect land and water resources on all public and private land. While notices went to 75 farmers and land owners only five responded. Two eventually agreed to soil testing, and “Because of a lack of access on private land and interest by landowners,” the district reported to the state in July, “Efforts would be better spent on other projects.” The patchwork of voluntary projects, and a dearth of river data from years past, make it tough to demonstrate the results that environmentalists, federal regulators – and judges – increasingly demand.

The movement to this new system will be politically challenging for ODA because some farmers and conservation districts see the new proposal as a sign of a more active and intrusive governmental agency. In a January letter, the Oregon Association of Conservation Districts warned that farmers and ranchers might believe districts “are conspiring with ODA to set them up” for water quality violations. ODA, with just six field staff in its water quality program for 38,000 farms needs the conservation districts, which it leans on heavily for information and ground work in order to be successful.

Farmers are also concerned. John Annen, whose family has grown hops for more than a century along Zollner Creek, stated “I’m all for the clean rivers and the fish and all that — they were here before we were…But I don’t want somebody out here telling us what to do.” Farmers were also worried about the cost of creating stronger buffer zones. Federal and state subsidies only cover three-quarters of buffer installation, and while rent payments are supposed to address lost land value, land can range up to $12,000 an acre in the area. However, without proper action, and no matter the cost, pesticide pollution in these streams will affect the health and environment of Oregon residents.
Legislators from both parties are watching ODA closely as the proposal moves forward. If they don’t like what they see, bills to restrict or expand ODA’s authority could pop up in the Legislature next year and the future of this program may be in jeopardy after the November 6th elections.

To eradicate pesticides runoff in our waterways and our environment Beyond Pesticides supports farms that work to transition to organic methods of production. Organic food contributes to better health through reduced pesticide exposure for all and increased nutritional quality. In order to understand the importance of eating organic food from the perspective of toxic pesticide contamination, we need to look at the whole picture —from the farmworkers who do the valuable work of growing food, to the waterways from which we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. Organic food can feed us and keep us healthy without producing the toxic effects of chemical agriculture.

It is important to make your voice heard on organic standards. See Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong webpage for more information on the issues going on right now at the fall NOSB meeting. We will be updating this webpage with our perspectives,, so be sure to check back as new information is added.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.


Nestle Peddling tap Water As Spring Water, Suit Claims

By Gavin Broady

Law360, New York (October 11, 2012, 1:36 PM ET) — Nestle Waters North America Inc. has been selling bottles of municipal tap water and falsely marketing it to consumers as 100 percent natural, spring-sourced water, according to a putative class action removed to Illinois federal court Wednesday.

Plaintiff Chicago Faucet Shoppe Inc. claims that Nestle — which removed the suit to federal court — has falsely represented to consumers that 5-gallon bottles of Ice Mountain water are sourced from springs and contain only naturally occurring minerals, when in fact the bottles are filled with water not from natural springs but from municipal water systems, according to the complaint.

“The Ice Mountain 5-gallon bottles would have cost less and would have been less marketable if there had been a disclosure that the 5-gallon bottles do not contain 100 percent natural spring water but instead contain resold municipal tap water,” the complaint said. “Nestle Waters’ failure to disclose this critical fact caused consumers to purchase 5-gallon jugs that they wouldn’t have otherwise purchased if that fact was known.”

Chicago Faucet is suing on behalf of all persons in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Missouri who purchased the 5-gallon Ice Mountain bottles, claiming unjust enrichment and deceptive trade practices under the Illinois Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and seeking actual and punitive damages, an injunction mandating disclosure and restitution.

Chicago Faucet claims that it began purchasing the 5-gallon jugs — which are sold only over the Internet or by phone, typically to offices or homes — for its Chicago office in 2008.

At an unspecified date thereafter, a Chicago Faucet employee called Nestle to order home delivery of the water and, after talking to several Nestle employees, was informed that the water was not 100 percent spring-sourced, according to the complaint.

Chicago Faucet says Nestle charges a premium for such spring-sourced water and that while bottles of water not advertised as spring-sourced — which are typically presumed to be tap water — have remained stagnant, sales of bottled water from spring sources have grown substantially.

Nestle has marketed the alleged benefits of spring water — including enhanced taste, quality and mineral composition — and has claimed that the springs themselves each have unique “taste fingerprints” in an unscrupulous and unethical manner intended to create demand for the product, according to the complaint.

Nestle Waters is the leading bottled water company in the U.S., with estimated 2010 sales exceeding $4 billion, according to the complaint.

This is not the first time Nestle has been hit with allegations over the sourcing of its bottled water. In 2003, a pair of consumers sued the company in a Connecticut class action over claims that its Poland Spring brand bottled water was falsely marketed as sourced from spring water deep in the woods of Maine when it consisted of tap water. That suit was reportedly settled later that year for a $10 million payout in the form of discounts to consumers and charitable contributions.

Representatives for the parties were not immediately for comment Thursday.

Chicago Faucet is represented by the Law Offices of Michael J. Newman and Cohen & Malad LLP.

Nestle is represented by Jeffrey M. Garrod of Orloff Lowenbach Stifelman & Siegel PA and Sarah Wolff and David Smith of Reed Smith LLP.

The case is The Chicago Faucet Shoppe Inc. v. Nestle Waters North America Inc, case number 1:12-cv-08119, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

–Editing by Lindsay Naylor.


Oregon denies water permit for Australian company

October 19, 2012

GRANTS PASS, Oregon (AP) — The state of Oregon has denied a water permit for an Australian mining company that wants to develop a gravel pit along a tributary of the Rogue River.

The Oregon Department of Water Resources said there is already too much water being taken out of Grave Creek, which flows into the Rogue at the start of the section that is one of Oregon’s most popular whitewater runs.

Water rights program manager Tim Wallin said Grave Creek ranks high on a list of waterways needing more water for salmon, and unless Havilah Resources LLC can secure some other water right to put back in the river, it cannot take out what it needs for mining.

A local representative of Havilah did not immediately return a telephone call for comment.

Conservation groups that had opposed the project praised the decision.

“We commend the Water Resources Department for standing up for one of Oregon’s most special places,” Kimberley Priestley, senior policy analyst for WaterWatch, said in a statement.

The proposed gravel pit would excavate 126 acres (51 hectares) about 12 miles (19 kilometers) upstream of the mouth of Grave Creek, in an area mined heavily for gold since the Gold Rush era.

Havilah proposed drilling 11 wells and pumping 8.5 cubic feet (0.24 cubic meters) per second of the groundwater that feeds the creek. Grave Creek runs from a high of 120 cubic feet (3.4 cubic meters) per second in February to a low of 3.6 cubic feet (0.1 cubic meters) per second in September. After being used in mining operations, water would go through a filtration process and return to the creek.

The water already is too warm to meet state standards for salmon, and withdrawing more water would make things worse, said Wallin. Pumping groundwater would deny water to the creek. The mine would also reduce water flowing downstream to the popular whitewater section of the Rogue.

Havilah has argued in its application that the project would put more water into the creek, and water going into the creek would be carefully filtered

The application denied Oct. 11 was for a temporary permit to allow operations to start prior to securing a permanent permit, Wallin said. The decision on the permanent permit is still pending, but denial of the temporary permit does not bode well for it, he said.


First Nation launches constitutional challenge to Shell tar sands expansion

  MONTHLY REVIEW                    

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation spokesperson Eriel Deranger speaks out against the oilsands at a recent event in Vancouver.

by David P. Ball
Indian Country Today October 5, 2012

A First Nation whose land sits in the heart of the Alberta oil sands has ramped up its legal battle against the vast industrial development, which has generated controversy because of its massive carbon footprint, untreated tailings ponds and at least three proposed pipelines: Keystone XL, Kinder Morgan and Enbridge‘s Northern Gateway.

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) on October 1 launched a constitutional challenge based in Treaty 8 alleging that the provincial government and the energy giant Shell Canada, which is looking to expand its Jackpine oil sands mine in the band’s traditional territories, have failed to adequately consult them and thus have in effect violated their treaty rights to use their land traditionally.

The challenge, submitted to the review panel that is evaluating the proposal, calls for mandatory consultation with First Nation treaty signatories. It also demands that their right to access their territories for hunting, trapping, harvesting and other traditional uses be honored. The Chipewyan allege that the Jackpine expansion, by damaging the environment, would prevent them from engaging in those activities and resources and thus violate the treaty.

Treaty 8, which forms the basis for ACFN’s constitutional challenge, is a historic agreement between the Crown and indigenous nations that promised aboriginal people the right to use their traditional lands and natural resources, and to self-governance. The ACFN is hoping to ”set new precedents that may mean changes to the regulatory process,” the band said in a statement.

“Consultation and accommodation—and the way it’s being done—has become shady deals, and coercion does not encompass the idea of free, prior and informed consent,” ACFN spokesperson Eriel Deranger told Indian Country Today Media Network. “The communities here have been bullied—by industry, a pro-industry provincial government and a pro-industry federal government—to just shut up and take what we can get out of a deal.”

Shell’s proposal—already facing a separate ACFN lawsuit to halt or alter it—would see the Jackpine project increase production every day by 100,000 barrels. But the company must first complete a review that begins on October 29, and ACFN says that the 31,429-acre disturbance area of the mine would devastate part of the culturally important Muskeg River, which is where the nation conducts most of its traditional hunting, trapping and harvesting activities.

“What are the costs of pushing the industry through?” Deranger asked. “We’re talking about doubling production in the tar sands. We’re already having problems with the current pace of development. Doubling it is psychotic. Some people think the tar sands and First Nations people can coexist, [but] I don’t know how you could possible rip up thousands of kilometers of boreal forest and traditional territories, de-water, poison and contaminate river systems, and consider that a plausible way for coexistence?”

But Shell insisted that it has, in fact, consulted the First Nation repeatedly, and that it does respect ACFN’s treaty rights.

“Shell has engaged extensively with ACFN over the last 15 years,” spokesperson David Williams told The Globe and Mail. “We’re aware of their concerns around Treaty 8, and our door remains open.”

Deranger acknowledged that some aboriginal people are divided over the benefits of the oil sands (or what its opponents call tar sands) in which a thick oil product, bitumen, is extracted from the earth in an energy-intensive mining and refining process.

“There are First Nations who think the tar sands are great,” Deranger admitted. “People have jobs. People now can afford to take their kids to Edmonton to go to the dentist. These are luxuries for people. But we have to start weighing the costs.”

Those costs—hundreds of toxic tailings ponds, open pit mines, significant emissions and polluted rivers across a giant swathe of Alberta—have not been properly addressed with ACFN, Deranger says.

“How will they potentially mitigate the impacts on traditional and treaty rights from their proposed expansion project in the oil sands?” she asked. “Industry isn’t meeting those standards. We’re not going to make any deals with you anymore. We’re going to fight your projects tooth and nail through a process that already exists.”