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COURT RESCHEDULED! Maine’s Groundwater: Day of Reckoning NOW March 1, 2016

Update: COURT RESCHEDULED FOR MARCH 1 

MAINE’S GROUNDWATER: Day of Reckoning on March 1, 2016. Come bear witness – this is it!

The Maine Supreme Court will be hearing final oral arguments at the Cumberland County Courthouse (205 Newbury St Portland, ME 04101) regarding the 45 year contract between Nestlé and the Fryeburg Water Company on Tuesday March 1 at 1:30pm. Be sure to arrive early as you will have to pass through security to enter the courtroom.Over 3 years ago, in August 2012, it came to light that Nestlé (for their Poland Spring brand) was pursuing a precedent setting ’45 year’ exclusive contract with the Fryeburg Water Company (FWC). The Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) commanded this case with conflict-of-interest commissioners at the helm. Our community did not get adequate administrative relief in this case. Ultimately, after a long struggle, the MPUC approved the case but is not yet final because we filed this appeal.If this appeal fails, Nestlé will have unfettered access to our community’s groundwater, which gives this multinational corporation an upper-hand over our life-giving resource for decades to come. ALL OF MAINE is at risk. We do not have adequate groundwater laws protecting us from bulk water mining which entitles Nestlé to exploit and compromise our resources. This is especially concerning with new international trade agreements being considered as the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) that would affect us.Please come to the courthouse and join us in observation of the process to which our water rights in Maine may be encroached upon by a global water predator… however, NOT WITH OUR CONSENT!!
A lot can happen in 45 years. With prolonged drought and other meteorologic conditions due to a changing climate, the inevitable changes in the water market or with the sustainability / quality of the water supply, we have great concern. Such predatory features of this contract have great potential to harm the local rate payers, the FWC and all others depending on the aquifer to sustain themselves.
Here are some examples of (though not limited to) some facts of the contract under appeal:CONTRACT FACT: The length is for 20 years, with option for 5, 5-year extensions for a total of 45 years with NO public input. There is no process outlined in granting the extensions.CONTRACT FACT: The annual MINIMUM extraction is 75 million gallons. There is no upper limit in the terms.CONTRACT FACT: Nestlé can terminate this contract in 2 years while the Fryeburg Water Company must give 5 years notice.
Consider: Imbalanced; giving advantage to the more powerful party.CONTRACT FACT: Nestlé’s bulk extraction can not be reduced or suspended for “no greater duration and to no greater extent, than what Fryeburg Water Company suspends or reduces its water sales to (local) commercial and industrial customers”.
CONSIDER While Nestlé can easily extract water from its other worldwide sources, where will Fryeburg’s businesses get their water? This deal grossly favors Nestlé, which does not reside locally, over the local businesses the Fryeburg Water Company is supposed to serve.

CONTRACT FACT: Nestlé will pay the same tariff rates as the local customers. Additionally, they are on a prorated pay scale – the more they pump, the less they pay per unit.
CONSIDER: Nestlé gets its water from all of well #1 and most of well #2. These wells are designated “spring water”. The local rate payers can get some water from well #2, and all of well #3. Well #3 is not designated as spring water and is near old industrial sites. There is obvious economic value to spring water and Nestlé has to receive significant value from advertising and using this asset. The local rate payers are subject to the same rate scale, but don’t get valuable “spring water”. For example, if a micro brewery wanted to start up in Fryeburg it could not gain the economic benefit of advertising that it brewed with “spring water” but it would be subject to the same rate structure as Nestlé.
(*The public advocate made the point that under the new payment structure Nestlé would be paying only $1.00 per thousand gallons, half of what they were previously paying).

CONTRACT FACT: Nestlé is the only allowed purchaser of bulk water in the proposed contract.
CONSIDER: By being tied to Nestlé for 45 years, the FWC has lost a very valuable competitive advantage. In most other states water is becoming scarcer which the FWC could use to its advantage in negotiating bulk water sales with other large purchasers.

CONTRACT FACT: It permits Nestlé to locate a new water source for the town of Fryeburg off it’s own aquifer.
CONSIDER: How will that affect the rates and infrastructure maintenance in the future if we have to move the town to a different aquifer? Why should Nestlé be permitted to over-pump so that we no longer have access to our own aquifer? Is this not legalized theft of our water resources?

Our water commons need protection and not exploitation.
We need our life-giving resources under a public trust to never be privatized.

Thank you. Please pass this on to spread the word.
With questions or to get involved, contact Nickie: nickiesekera(at)gmail(dot)com

2 comments to COURT RESCHEDULED! Maine’s Groundwater: Day of Reckoning NOW March 1, 2016

  • Mary Driscoll

    How is it possible an international company, with NO ties or return of investment to local commerce or benefit to the region, is ALLOWED to extract all the water, for 45 years? Is it true that Water ends up being sold to the people at 200% profit for Nestle?

    In other countries where water extraction is allowed the terrain becomes dehydrated and nothing: plants, animals or people can live there. Why is Nestle allowed to do this? Who in Fryeberg WANTS this to happen?

    • chris

      Hi Mary,
      It is primarily the people who have a business partnership with Nestle that are in support of the extraction. There were several hundred people (a LOT for that area!) trying to pack the public hearing about this contract to say in one way or another how they felt it was a BAD DEAL. Unfortunately the PUC just deals with legalities, and Maine’s groundwater laws are extremely weak. to add insult to injury, the Maine legislature is largely influenced by funding from Nestle, so changing state law is difficult and, in our opinion, not worth it under the LePage administration.

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