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.”

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2016/05/09/nestle-fights-feds-water-rights/84163260/

Water, climate, and the military tomorrow on “Corporations and Democracy” radio

Nsecuredisposessedick Buxton is tomorrow’s guest on “Corporations & Democracy” radio, streaming online on KZYX.org starting at 1 p.m. Pacific, 4 p.m. Eastern, and available after that at afdradio.org. Nick is co-editor of The Secure and the Dispossessed – How the military and corporations are seeking to shape a climate-changed world, published last year by Pluto Press. He’ll be talking about how big corporations and the military are already planning to maintain control in the face of the climate crisis. Adaptation to a climate-changed world is desperately needed, but he’ll detail how the powerful opt for militarized responses that provide security for the few, instead of protecting the rights and future of all of us.

Nick has been involved in global justice campaigning for more than two decades. He coordinated communications for Jubilee 2000, the international movement to cancel the debt of the world’s poorest countries. While living in Bolivia he worked with the group Fundación Solón, focusing on trade, water, culture and historical memory, and chronicled national resistance to neoliberal economic policies, including the election of Evo Morales in 2005. He has also worked for the Transnational Institute, a thinktank supporting social movement work against corporate impunity, unjust trade and investment agreements. He has also published articles on debt and globalization.

“Corporations & Democracy” is a long-running, community-based radio show co-produced by Alliance for Democracy members and friends on Mendocino County Public Radio, at KZYX-FM. The show features speakers and specialists on how giant corporations have degraded our democracy, and how citizens around the country are working to reduce corporate power and build a real democracy.

Past guests have included Naomi Klein, Howard Zinn, Frances Moore Lappe, Ralph Nader, Thom Hartmann, Helen Caldicott, David Korten, Medea Benjamin, George Lakoff, Greg Palast and Noam Chomsky. The show also looks at what is going on locally, in Mendocino’s towns and in the county, focusing on government, development, and agriculture.

Corporations & Democracy is broadcast live on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month from 1 to 2 p.m., Pacific Coast time.

New Video Highlights Protection of Cascade Locks Water

This new video on the community fight to protect Cascade Locks OR water from being bottled and shipped by Nestlé needs to be watched and shared! Alliance for Democracy is an endorser of the campaign.

A ballot measure for Hood River County, in which the town of Cascade Locks is located, seeks to block the export of water by by banning any water bottling operation that produces 1,000 gallons or more a day. Nestlé expects to package 11 times that amount from Oxbow Springs in an average hour. The group Local Water Alliance is backing the measure, and you can learn more about them, and support their work, at their website.

Protesters converge on Nestlé bottling plants in Sacramento and LA

The outrage over the bottling of California water by Nestlé, Walmart and other big corporations during a record drought has become viral on social media and national and international press websites over the past couple of months.

On May 20, people from across the state converged on two Nestlé bottling plants – one in Sacramento and the other in Los Angeles – demanding that the Swiss-based Nestlé corporation halt its bottling operations during the state’s record drought.

Wednesday’s protest, led by the California-based Courage Campaign, was the third in Sacramento over the past year. The first two protests were “shut downs” this March and last October organized by the Crunch Nestlé Alliance. For my report on the March protest, go to:http://www.truth-out.org/….

For over an hour Wednesday, over 50 protesters held signs and marched as they chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, Nestlé Waters has got to go,” “Water is a human right! Don’t let Nestlé win this fight,” and “Keep our water in the ground, Nestle Waters get out of town.”

One eight-foot-long banner at the Sacramento protest read: “Nestle, 515,000 people say leave California’s precious water in the ground,” referring to the total number of signatures on the petitions.

At the protests, activists delivered the 515,000 signatures from people in California and around the country who signed onto a series of petitions to Nestlé executives, Governor Brown, the California State Water Resources Control Board,  and the U.S. Forest Service urging an immediate shutdown of Nestlé’s bottling operations across the state.

The petitions were circulated by Courage Campaign, SumOfUs.org, CREDO, Corporate Accountability International, Avaaz, Food & Water Watch, Care2, Change.org and Daily Kos.

In Sacramento, local activists and residents joined residents from San Francisco and Oakland who took buses to protest outside Nestlé’s bottling plant at 8670 Younger Creek Drive. View photos from the Sacramento protest here: https://www.flickr.com/… in California.

Jessica Lopez, the Chair of the Concow Maidu Tribe, participated in the protest with her daughter, Salvina Chinook.

“I stand here in solidarity with everybody here demanding the protection of our water rights,” said Chair Lopez. “Nestle needs to stop bottling water during this drought. Why have they obtained their current permits to pump city water?”

Tim Molina, Strategic Campaign Organizer for the California-based Courage Campaign, who spoke at the Sacramento event, said to the crowd, “Today we are saying enough is enough. With people across California doing their part to conserve water — it’s time that Nestlé did the right thing and put people over profits –  by immediately halting their water bottling operations across the State.”

“If Nestlé won’t do what’s right to protect California’s precious water supply, it is up to Governor Brown and the California Water Resource Control Boards to step in and stop this blatant misuse of water during our State’s epic drought,” he said.

“Bottling public water for private profit doesn’t make sense for communities and it doesn’t make sense for the environment,” said Sandra Lupien, Western Region Communications Manager at Food & Water Watch, also at the protest in Sacrmaento. “During a historic drought crisis, it is utter madness to allow corporations like Nestlé to suck our dwindling groundwater and sell it for thousands of times what it pays. Putting a halt to water bottling in California is a no-brainer and Governor Jerry Brown must stand up to protect Californians’ public resource.”

After the activists gave the petitions to Nestle representatives at the Sacramento plant, the Nestle supervisor presented the organizers with a letter from Tim Brown, President and CEO of Nestle Waters North America, responding to a letter from the Courage Campaign.

Brown wrote, “Keep in mind that beverages consumed in California but not bottled in the state must be shipped a longer distance, which has its own drawbacks, such as the environmental impact of transportation. Sourcing water in California provides water with a lower carbon footprint, which has a beneficial environmental impact. The entire bottled industry accounts for 0.02 percent of the annual water used in California.”

The company said it also would like to engage in “thoughtful dialogue” with the water bottling opponents.

“We appreciate the opportunity to engage in thoughtful dialogue – and in meaningful action – to address California’s water challenges. We would welcome the opportunity to speak with you – in person or over the phone – to advance our shared desire for a more sustainable California. We are hopeful that the public discussion we are all engaged in around water use – including your efforts – leads to positive collective action.”

In 2014, Nestlé Waters used about 50 million gallons from the Sacramento municipal water supply to produce “Nestlé Pure Life® Purified Drinking Water” and for other plant operations, according to a statement from Nestlé Waters. To read the city of Sacramento’s responses to my questions about the Nestlé bottling plant’s use of city water, go to:http://www.dailykos.com/…)

In Los Angeles, local activists and residents were joined by people from Orange County and Long Beach who took buses to protest outside Nestlé’s bottling plant at 1560 East 20th Street.

The representatives from consumer, environmental and human rights groups who participated in the protest, like at the protest in Sacramento, blasted the corporation for making millions off bottled water during the drought when urban users are seeing increasing restrictions on their water use.

“As California’s water supplies dry up, Nestlé continues to make millions selling bottled water and that’s outrageous!” explained Liz McDowell, campaigner for SumOfUs.org. “We’ve stood up to Nestlé exploiting natural resources for profit in the past everywhere from Pakistan to Canada, and now the global community is speaking out before California runs completely dry.”

The Desert Sun reported earlier this month that Nestlé was bottling water in desert and drought-stricken areas of California and selling it for profit, all while its permit for water pipelines and wells in the San Bernardino National Forest lists 1988 as the year of expiration. Nestlé currently extracts water from at least a dozen natural springs in California for its Arrowhead and Pure Life brands.(http://www.desertsun.com/…)

A majority of people in the U.S. believe Nestle should stop bottling in California, according to a recent poll. However, in spite of the clear and growing public outcry, when asked about the controversy, Nestlé CEO Tim Brown remarked that he wished the multinational corporation could bottle more water from the drought stricken state, the groups pointed out.

“Nestlé is profiteering at the expense of the public interest,” stated Zack Malitz, Campaign Manager at CREDO Action. “In the midst of an historic drought with no end in sight, it is wildly irresponsible for Nestle to extract vast amounts of California’s water.”

Joe Baker, Care2’s Vice President of Advocacy and Editorial, said, “Care2 and its 30 million members are an online community standing together for good – and it is not good for the public to have Nestle bottling our water during an extreme drought in California. We’re asking Nestle to do the responsible thing for the public good, and stop bottling water in a drought-stricken area. Every single drop counts.”

“For decades, Nestle has demonstrated a blatant disregard for local communities and the environment,” said Erin Diaz, the campaign director at Corporate Accountability International’s Think Outside the Bottle campaign. “In response to community concerns about its backdoor political dealings and environmental damage, Nestle has poured millions into PR and greenwashing campaigns. But Nestle’s money can’t wash away its abysmal track record, and Californians are demanding an end to Nestle’s abusive practices.”

John Tye, Campaign Director, Avaaz, concluded, “Families across the American West are already paying a steep price for mismanagement and scandalous selloffs of public resources. It’s time for California, and Governor Brown, to set a strong example for conservation and responsive regulation. Tens of thousands of people across the country are tired of watching companies like Nestlé profit at the expense of the taxpayers.”

The protests take place as Jerry Brown continues to push his plan to construct two massive tunnels under the Delta, potentially the most environmentally destructive protect in California history. The twin tunnels would divert massive quantities of water from the Sacramento River to be used by corporate agribusiness interests irrigating drainage impaired land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, as well as to Southern California water agencies and oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations.

The construction of the tunnels would hasten the extinction of winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other imperiled fish species, as well as threaten the salmon and steelhead populations on the Trinity and Klamath rivers.

But the tunnels plan is just one of the many environmentally destructive policies of the Brown administration. Governor Brown has presided over record water exports and fish kills at the Delta pumping facilities; promotes the expansion of fracking in California; pursues water policies that have driven Delta smelt, winter-run Chinook salmon and other fish species closer to extinction; and authorized the completion of questionable “marine protected areas” created under the helm of a big oil lobbyist during the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative. (http://www.truth-out.org/…)

The groups are now urging everybody to sign the pledge by Daily Kos, Courage Campaign and Corporate Accountability International: Do not drink bottled water from Nestlé:https://www.dailykos.com/…

This is the text of the pledge to Nestlé Corporation:

I pledge to choose tap water instead of buying the following Nestlé products: Acqua Panna, Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ice Mountain, Nestea, Nestlé Pure Life, Ozarka, Perrier, Poland Spring, Resource, S. Pellegrino, Sweet Leaf, Tradewinds and Zephyrhills.

For more information, go to: https://www.couragecampaign.org/…

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2015/05/21/18772569.php

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. 

Source: http://democracyctr.org/newsletter/issues/04_2015_Water_War.html

Monterey citizens group eyes ballot measure for public buyout of private water company

By Jim Johnson. Crossposted from Monterey County Herald

A citizens group in Monterrey is putting forward a ballot that would require the water district to draw up plans for taking water services back into public hands. Services are  controlled currently by private company California American Water. Their exorbitant profits and mismanagement, including a failed desalination project and an expensive dam removal, have led to growing anger against the company and provide an opportunity to put water back under public control. Continue reading