Nestlé bottled-water company seeks to take more Michigan water

by Keith Matheny and Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press

Nestlé Waters North America’s plans to increase its Michigan groundwater withdrawal by more than 2 1/2 times would unravel an accord reached with environmentalists seven years ago that was aimed at protecting the water table and wildlife.

Nestlé announced a $36-million expansion at its Ice Mountain bottling operations in Stanwood, in Mecosta County, on Oct. 31. The addition of two water-bottling lines — the first to begin operation next spring; the next opening by 2018 — is expected to add 20 jobs to the plant, which employs more than 250 people.

But the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has not yet approved the company’s request to increase its groundwater withdrawals by 167% — from 150 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute — at White Pine Springs well No. 101 in nearby Osceola County. The DEQ has, however, recommended approval under the Michigan Safe Drinking Water Act.

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation sued Nestlé in 2001 over the potential damage to lakes, rivers and streams that its bottled water plant’s groundwater withdrawals would cause. After years of court battles, the two sides reached a settlement agreement in 2009, reducing Nestlé’s siphoning to 218 gallons per minute from 400, with additional restrictions on spring and summer withdrawals. The litigation cost the nonprofit more than $1 million, which was covered by supporters.

Now, the proposed permit from the DEQ would take the bottled-water plant’s groundwater withdrawals back up to the level that prompted the lawsuit.

“I’m not sure if there is a reasonable amount of water that should be allowed to be taken from an aquifer,” said Jeff Ostahowski, vice president of the nonprofit Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation. “But 400 gallons per minute seems more than a bit too much.”

The controversy highlights the sometimes-contentious balance between protecting Michigan’s most important, abundant natural resource — its fresh water — and using it as an economic commodity. It’s particularly heightened after the months of fierce debate this year over a Wisconsin community, Waukesha, which lies just outside the Great Lakes Basin, being approved to use the basin for its water supply by Great Lakes Compact member states — over howls of protest from local governments throughout the Midwest.

The DEQ requires use of its Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool, an interactive, online evaluation of proposed water withdrawals in the state that looks at impacts to fish and stream flows through comparative data and modeling, prior to any proposed large-quantity water withdrawal.

“When Nestlé ran the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool” last December, “they didn’t pass,” said Jim Milne, the shorelines unit chief in the DEQ’s Water Resources Division.

But as state regulations allow, the company then requested a site-specific review by DEQ staff. That review, which included looks at the geology in the area and Nestlé’s own compiled stream-flow information, led the DEQ to determine the increased pumping “is not likely to cause an adverse resource impact,” in January, he said, meaning it won’t impact populations of fish in the Chippewa Creek watershed, a tributary to the Muskegon River, or decrease stream flows to the point of natural resource impacts.

It’s not unprecedented for DEQ staff to override the findings of the agency’s Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool. From July 2015 to July of this year, the DEQ authorized 123 withdrawal requests rejected by the computerized modeling after site-specific reviews, Milne said.

The Stanwood plant receives its water supply “from diverse sources that we manage in a sustainable manner,” said Christopher Rieck, a spokesman for Nestlé Waters North America.

“The increase would also allow us the ability to balance the use of our water sources to ensure long-term sustainability and support future growth.”

The DEQ notified the public of its impending decision on the Nestlé permit via its biweekly environmental calendar, a little-read regulatory notices clearinghouse, and announced that public comment on Nestlé’s request would close Nov. 3, sparking outrage from many because of the short notice.

“The MDEQ’s handling of the Nestlé application is as lax as the handling of the Flint water crisis. Nothing has changed,” said Jim Olson, an environmental attorney and founder and president of the environmental nonprofit For Love of Water, or FLOW.

“Rights to public notice, public information, hearings and public participation in government decisions over water and quality of life, health — even our economy — have been diminished to the point of absurdity. MDEQ didn’t even post the underlying documents to the application summary online for interested people to review before public comment, and the notice was so hidden and late in the game that no meaningful comments can be made by Nov. 3.”

Added Ostahowski : “I think they were trying to slip it through. It’s disappointing but not uncommon.”

Responding to such criticism, the DEQ has announced it would extend the public comment period 30 days, and will make available the documents it used to recommend approval of the Nestlé application. A public hearing will also be scheduled in the area during the 30-day period, with a date and venue yet to be determined, said Carrie Monosmith, the DEQ’s Environmental Health Section Chief in its Office of Drinking Water.

One reason the Nestlé operation in Michigan has been controversial is that Deb Muchmore, a lobbyist and public relations consultant who has served as a Michigan spokeswoman for the company, is the spouse of Dennis Muchmore, who until January was chief of staff to Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Free Press reported in February that in March 2015, Dennis Muchmore proposed spending $250,000 to buy bottled water for Flint from either Nestlé or Absopure, a competitor.

“How about cutting a deal with Ice Mountain,” which is bottled by Nestlé, “or (Absopure Water board member) Bill Young and buying some water for the people for a time?” Muchmore asked in a March 3, 2015, e-mail. He added that “$250,000 buys a lot of water, and we could distribute it through the churches while we continue to make the water even safer.”

Neither deal happened, officials said.

Nestlé’s large-scale withdrawal of low-cost Great Lakes water while Flint residents have not had clean tap water to drink has not sat well with many in Michigan.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, said Nestlé has increased the amount of water it’s pumping over time and that he feels the company’s permit application shows the latest proposed increase would negatively impact the environment. Nestlé said its plans would only “minimally” affect the levels of nearby creeks, when it should be having no impact on surface waters, he said.

“Nestlé is essentially appropriating what is a common good for their personal corporate utility,” he said.

Given the track record of the DEQ under Snyder’s administration, it’s reasonable for people to question whether a decision will be made based on the environment and the public good, or on corporate interests, Irwin said.

“Michigan citizens need to understand that part of the legacy we have is the unusual amount of fresh water we have. It’s not a given that it’s going to be around forever. With a company like Nestlé, it appears there is no end to what they think they can sell,” Ostahowski said.

Written comments on Nestlé’s proposed increased water withdrawals can be submitted until Dec. 3 to the DEQ via e-mail at deq-eh@michigan.gov or mailed to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, P.O. Box 30241, Lansing, Mich., 48909-7741.

Source: http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/11/20/nestl-bottled-water-company-seeks-take-more-michigan-water/93175144/

Obama’s New Infrastructure Plan Would Worsen Our Water System Woes

Link to original article.

January 16, 2015

Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter

Washington, D.C. — “Today the Obama administration announced a slew of proposals that will endanger our water systems by promoting and facilitating the management of critical drinking water resources by companies that often have a poor track record. Through the creation of a new Water Finance Center at the EPA to foster water privatization deals, and through new tax breaks on bonds for privatized projects, the Obama administration seeks to pave the way for big Wall Street firms and foreign water corporations to take control of our essential water resources. These misguided proposals will not benefit the average American, or our public water utilities, but will merely pad the pockets of those who seek to profit off the provision of water and sewer services.

“Public-private partnerships are not a practical or effective way to meet our water infrastructure crisis. The American people cannot afford the price tag or environmental threats that are well documented after private companies make decisions based on their bottom lines.

“Public water is the American way. More than 80 percent of the U.S. population receives water and sewer service from a publicly owned and operated utility. The public sector is responsible for more than 90 percent of drinking water and wastewater investments, mostly through tax-exempt municipal bonds. Instead of undermining our municipal utilities, the federal government should increase its support for public water and sewer systems.

“The federal government must step up and renew its commitment to our public water and sewer systems. The Obama administration and Congress can more effectively bolster our local government and rural water utilities by fully funding the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program, preserving tax-exempt status on general obligation and revenue bonds and authorizing Building America’s Future bonds.

“Responsible public provision is the most effective way to ensure that every person has access to safe and affordable water service.”

Contact: Katherine Cirullo, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4914, kcirullo@fwwatch.org

The Indiana Toll Road and the Dark Side of Privately Financed Highways

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 | by  and  | Streetsblog USA

Link to Original Article.

This is the first post in a three-part series on the Indiana Toll Road and the use of private finance to build and maintain highways. Part two takes a closer look at how Australian firm Macquarie manages its infrastructure assets. Part three examines the incentives for consultants to exaggerate traffic projections, making terrible boondoggles look like financial winners.

 

Who owns the Indiana Toll Road? Well, as of the bankruptcy filing in September, Macquarie Atlas Roads Limited (MQA Australia), which is joined at the hip to Macquarie Atlas Roads International Limited (MQA Bermuda) on the Australian stock exchange, has a 25 percent stake. Macquarie’s investment bank arm brokers the various transactions related to ownership of the road, collecting fees on each one. Welcome to the world of privately financed infrastructure. Graphic: Macquarie prospectus

 

In September, the operator of the Indiana Toll Road filed for bankruptcy, eight years after inking a $3.8 billion, 75-year concession for the road with the administration of Governor Mitch Daniels.

The implications of the bankruptcy for the financial industry were large enough that ratings agency Standard & Poor’s stepped in immediately to calm nerves. In a press release, the company attempted to distinguish the Indiana venture from similar projects, known as public-private partnerships, or P3s: “We do not believe this bankruptcy will slow the growth of current-generation transportation P3 projects, which have different risk characteristics.”

But the similarities between the Indiana Toll Road and other P3s involving private finance can’t be ignored. And as we’ll see, even the differences aren’t all good news for the American public. Once hailed as the model for a new age of U.S. infrastructure, today the Indiana deal looks more like a canary in a coal mine.

At a time when government and Wall Street are raring to team up on privately financed infrastructure, a look at the Indiana Toll Road reveals several of the red flags to beware in all such deals: an opaque agreement based on proprietary information the public cannot access; a profit-making strategy by the private financier that relies on securitization and fees, divorced from the actual infrastructure product or service; and faulty assumptions underpinning the initial investment, which can incur huge public expense down the line. Though made in the name of innovation and efficiency, private finance deals are often more expensive than conventional bonding, threatening to suck money from taxpayers while propping up infrastructure projects that should never get built.

For the parties who put these deals together, however, the marriage of private finance and public roads is incredibly convenient. Investors are increasingly impatient with record-low returns on conventional bonds, and are turning to infrastructure as an asset class that promises stable, inflation-protected returns over the long run.

Meanwhile, governments are eager to fix decaying infrastructure — but without raising taxes or increasing their capacity to borrow. On the occasion of yet another meeting intended to drum up investor interest, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx recently wrote on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s blog: “With public investments in our nation’s important transportation assets steadily declining, we need to find better ways to partner with private investors to help rebuild America.”

Those investors are lining up to get in the infrastructure game. According to the Congressional Budget Office, about 40 percent of new urban highways in America were built using the private finance model between 1996 and 2006. Since 2008, that figure has jumped to almost 70 percent.

In an attempt to get even more deals done, the current federal transportation bill ramped up funding for the TIFIA program — which offers subsidized federal loans and other credit assistance, often to projects that also receive private backing — by a factor of eight.

Major private investors have stepped up their lobbying efforts to close more of these lucrative deals. Meridiam North America recently hired Ray LaHood, Foxx’s predecessor as Transportation Secretary, and Macquarie Group — which orchestrated the Indiana fiasco — hired away a White House deputy assistant to “continue strengthening our relationships with key elected officials… while also exploring new investment opportunities.”

 

 

From a PricewaterhouseCoopers report advising readers "how to become a player in the P3 (public-private-partnership infrastructure) market."

 

In the midst of all this excitement about an “emerging market” in privately-financed American road-building comes the big failure of the Indiana Toll Road. In the news cycle following the bankruptcy, pundits praisedformer Indiana governor Mitch Daniels for deftly negotiating the deal. Many experts seem to think that the state of Indiana will almost entirely be shielded from the fallout of this bankruptcy, since it already received its payout and retained the right to set the road’s tolls and enforce its maintenance standards. (That is often not the case in these kinds of deals. Note how Standard and Poor’s says that newer infrastructure deals have “different risk characteristics” — that is, more of the risk falls on the public, something we’ll discuss in the third installment in this series.)

At the time of its sale in 2006, the Indiana Toll Road was the largest infrastructure privatization deal in U.S. history. Investors paid $3.8 billion for the right to operate and collect tolls on the 156-mile road for 75 years. The winning bid raised eyebrows. Sure, the road is heavily traveled by cross-country trucks, but the price was twice what state officials had expected the road to fetch, and $1 billion more than any other group had bid.

But if Indiana did manage to put one over on the financier-owners, Australian firm Macquarie and Spanish firm Ferrovial, as some suggest, those owners don’t seem to be too worried. For Macquarie, an investment bank and financial services firm with almost $400 billion under management, the loss hardly even registered as a blip in its share price:

 

Image via Google

 

Under the terms of the bankruptcy deal approved last month, ITR Concession Co. LLC – the company Macquarie and Ferrovial formed – will either be sold at auction, with proceeds distributed among its creditors, or those creditors will themselves buy a 95.75 percent stake in the restructured company, thanks to a fresh $2.75 billion round of borrowing. ITR began its life as a P3 with $3 billion in bank debt, and ITR’s second incarnation could get up and running with $2.75 billion in debt — not exactly a fresh start.

Bloomberg, The Hill, Reuters and the other outlets covering this story all pinned the downfall of ITR on both a risky financing scheme and on faulty traffic projections. Most sources shrugged off the faulty traffic projections as an artifact of the recession, not as part of a longer-term, more permanent shift in driving behavior that has been widely documented.

Whatever the cause, the Indiana Toll Road’s traffic projections were indeed very, very wrong. Although the actual projections contained in the signed contract are proprietary and shielded from public view, the state of Indiana released an analysis they conducted prior to the sale [PDF] showing expected increases amounting to 22 percent every seven years. What actually occurred after ITR took over the lease in 2006 was closer to the inverse: traffic declined more than 11 percent.

But even if traffic levels had met the projections, that would not have been enough to save ITR. As Toll Roads News pointed out, predicted traffic growth plus profit-maximizing toll rates still couldn’t have balanced the books:

They’d still only have toll revenues of $245m. And with interest payments to be made to borrowers of $268m they’d still be losing money.

So in addition to faulty traffic projections, ITR relied on a risky financing scheme that inflated its costs.

Media outlets also noted that the ITR bankruptcy was just the latest and largest in a crop of privately owned tollway failures that now litter the land. In recent years, other privately financed toll roads that have filed for bankruptcy protection have included San Diego’s South Bay Expressway (also owned by Macquarie and the first project to receive federal TIFIA funds), South Carolina’s Southern Connector, and the Alabama and Detroit roads owned by American Roads. Many more are limping along and may well end up bankrupt, like SH-130 outside Austin or the Northwest Parkway between Denver and Boulder.

Bankruptcy or default won’t necessarily eliminate the risk of a public bailout. The 12-year-old Pocahontas Parkway outside Richmond has now failed twice, largely because projected sprawl in its vicinity just never materialized. (Instead, Richmond’s core is booming, as in other metro areas.) Since TIFIA loans account for one-fourth of Pocahontas’ debt, taxpayers will eventually take a hit if the road continues to miss its payments.

Who is Macquarie, and why did it pay so much to run this Indiana highway? What can we learn about private finance in the infrastructure industry by taking a closer look at how Macquarie handled the Indiana Toll Road?

And then, why were traffic projections so far off base in this case? There’s a lot of evidence that engineering firms like Wilbur Smith (now CDM Smith), which produced the faulty forecasts for the ITR, have incentives to inflate traffic projections.

We’ll dig into these questions in the next posts in this series:

Angie Schmitt is a newspaper reporter-turned planner/advocate who manages the Streetsblog Network from glamorous Cleveland, Ohio. She also writes about urban issues particular to the industrial Midwest at Rustwire.com.

Veolia Water Company Slams into Detroit

BY  | SEPTEMBER 3, 2014 | Global Justice Ecology Project

The city of Detroit’s state appointed emergency manager has hired the notorious Veolia North America, the American subsidiary of the equally notorious Veolia Environment, headquartered in Paris.  Veolia, one of the leading privatizers of water systems in the world and Veolia North America has colonized American cities, especially those located on the Great Lakes.

Photo courtesy Food and Water Watch

The Company has been hired to “advise” the city on “how to find cost savings” in the sewer and water department.  The city has now opened up bids on privatizing the water and sewer system in Detroit, which has been resisted for years.

Wait, it only gets worse. The United States is in the middle of negotiating a trade deal with the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, aka TTIP, which could undermine communities ability to halt hostile privatizations efforts, hinder attempts to reclaim water systems from EU corporations and make it harder to hold private water companies accountable.

Just what Detroiter’s that are already suffering human rights violations and access to water need! We see the future and it is here.

Read the whole story in Mitch Jones’ story at Food and Water Watch

How Free Trade Might Harm Detroit Again
Mitch Jones, Food and Water Watch. Sept 2, 2014.

While once a central component of the economic activity of the United States, Detroit – like other American cities reliant on manufacturing – has fallen on hard times. To be clear, this isn’t an accident of misfortune. Detroit was targeted by both the “free trade” and anti-labor agenda that took over American politics in the 1970s. As a result, the city lost thousands of jobs and its economy suffered. The current crisis in Detroit involving water shut-offs is a symptom of this agenda.

The state-appointed emergency manager for Detroit opened up bids for privatizing the sewer and water department. Recently, the city hired private water company Veolia Water to advise the city on “cost savings” within the department. Headquartered in Paris, Veolia Environnement operates as Veolia Water North America in the United States and is the second largest water company in the country, serving about 10.5 million people in 32 states. In addition to advising the city on cost savings within the department, Veolia is also one of the companies that have expressed interest in a privatized Detroit water system.

Read the whole story here

Demand System Change

 

Federal report gauges U.S. impacts of global warming

Doyle Rice, USA TODAY 12:06 p.m. EDT May 6, 2014

Link to original article and video

Global warming is affecting where and how Americans live and work, and evidence is mounting that burning fossil fuels has made extreme weather such as heat waves and heavy precipitation much more likely in the USA, according to a massive federal report released Tuesday at the White House.

 

“Climate change is here and now, and not in some distant time or place,” said Texas Tech University climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, one of the authors of the 1,100-page National Climate Assessment (NCA), the largest, most comprehensive U.S.-focused climate change report ever produced.

 

“The choices we’re making today will have a significant impact on our future,” Hayhoe said.

 

The assessment was prepared by hundreds of the USA’s top scientists. It agreed with a recent report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the planet is warming, mostly because of human activity.

 

The assessment provides “the loudest and clearest alarm bell to date” for immediate and aggressive climate action, said John P. Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, at a press conference in Washington on Tuesday.

 

“All Americans will find things that matter to them in this report,” added Jerry Melillo, chair of the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee.

 

“Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington state and maple syrup producers in Vermont are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience,” the U.S. report stated. “So, too, are coastal planners in Florida, water managers in the arid Southwest, city dwellers from Phoenix to New York and native peoples on tribal lands from Louisiana to Alaska.”

 

MORE: Stories on weathering the change

 

SPECIAL REPORT: Why you should sweat climate change

 

While scientists continue to refine projections of the future climate, observations unequivocally show that the climate is changing and that the warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. These emissions come mainly from the burning of coal, oil and gas, the report states.

 

“If people took the time to read the report, they would see that it is not necessarily about polar bears, whales or butterflies,” said meteorologist Marshall Shepherd of the University of Georgia. “I care about all of those, but the NCA is about our kids, dinner table issues, and our well being.”

 

 

The colors on the map show temperature changes over the past 22 years (1991-2012) compared with the 1901-1960 average for the contiguous U.S.(Photo: NOAA)

“We’re already seeing extreme weather and it’s happening now,” said study co-author Donald Wuebbles, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois. “We’re seeing more heat waves, particularly in the West and in the South.”

 

Specifically, the three most significant threats from climate change in the USA are sea level rise along the coasts, droughts and fires in the Southwest and extreme precipitation events across the country.

 

The assessment was written by 300 scientists and other experts from academia; local, state and federal governments; the private sector; private citizens; and the non-profit sector. Representatives from oil companies such as ConocoPhillips and Chevron and environmental groups such as the Nature Conservancy endorsed the assessment’s findings.

 

“The National Climate Assessment brings to light new and stronger evidence of how climate change is already having widespread impacts across the United States,” according to Kevin Kennedy of the World Resources Institute, a Washington, D.C.- based environmental group.

 

“Chevron recognizes and shares the concerns of governments and the public about climate change,” said Chevron spokesperson Justin Higgs. “Chevron’s Arthur Lee was one of 60 committee members and 240 authors to assist in the compilation of this report. We recognize the importance of this issue and are committed to continued research and understanding.”

 

A vast majority of climate scientists — generally pegged at 97% — concur with the basics of the science behind climate change, though some still find flaws in the details. A report last week, for instance, in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change found that the impacts of extreme heat are often exaggerated.

 

The assessment is a federally mandated report prepared by the nation’s top scientists every four years for the president and Congress to review. This is the third report produced.

 

ORIGINAL SOURCE: National Climate Assessment

 

The United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) coordinated the development of the NCA, which is exclusively focused on climate impacts to the United States, according to the requirements of the Global Change Research Act of 1990.

 

Contributing: Associated Press

 

 

Ten indicators of a warming world: These are just some of the indicators measured globally over many decades that show that the Earth’s climate is warming. White arrows indicate increasing trends; black arrows indicate decreasing trends.(Photo: NOAA)

NEW MEXICO: County defends its fracking ban as it declares corporations aren’t people

Monday, November 18, 2013 | Energy Wire, an E&E Publishing Service | Mike Lee, E&E reporter

A fracking ban in a swath of rural New Mexico has led to a federal lawsuit involving the Constitution, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, indigenous water rights, the treaty that ended the Mexican War of 1848 and one of the best-known oil-drilling families in the state.

It could be a precursor to disputes around the country as local governments attempt to ban drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The oil industry is concerned about environmental groups’ ability to sway small-town voters. Four local bans won at the polls in Colorado earlier this month.

Mora County’s drilling ban was written with help from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, or CELDF, which helped write a drilling ban in Dryden, N.Y.

The group is “going around the country and trying to get this adopted,” said Karin Foster, a spokeswoman for the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico. “We felt the time was now to actually fight it.”

Mora County, just northeast of Santa Fe, has a population of about 5,000 and no oil or gas drilling. The three-member county commission passed an ordinance in April that bans not only drilling, but also the use of water for hydraulic fracturing — the water-intensive method used to access shale formations. It goes on to say that corporations violating the local law won’t have the rights of “persons” under the U.S. and New Mexico constitutions and cites local residents’ water rights under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the U.S.-Mexican War in 1848 and made New Mexico a U.S. territory.

“Natural communities and ecosystems including, but not limited to, wetlands, streams, rivers, aquifers and other water systems, possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist and flourish within Mora County against oil and gas extraction,” the ordinance says. “Residents of the county, along with the Mora County Commission, shall possess legal standing to enforce those rights.”

Kathleen Dudley, an organizer with CELDF, said the ordinance was intended to make a point about the power of corporations and the need to shift the balance of political strength back to ordinary voters.

“We don’t have a fracking problem, we have a democracy problem,” Dudley said.

The New Mexico Independent Petroleum Association and two landowners have sued in federal district court, asking a judge to rule that the county ordinance contradicts state and federal law. The ban on drilling violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of due process and the Constitution’s prohibition against governments taking private property without compensation, the suit says.

As for whether corporations have the same rights as people, the suit cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial 2010 decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission. The decision overturned a federal ban on the use of corporate money for independent political ads, saying the restrictions were a violation of the Constitution’s free-speech guarantees.

Among those suing Mora County are Yates Ranch Property LLP and JAY Land Ltd., which own the 125,000-acre Ojo Feliz Ranch in Mora County.

The Yates family is descended from Martin Yates, who drilled the first commercial well in southeastern New Mexico, Foster said. The family-owned Yates Petroleum Corp. is among the biggest privately owned oil producers in the country, according to published reports, and it owns oil and gas leases in Mora County.

A company spokesman declined to comment, but Yates Petroleum makes its views on government plain in the company history on its website: “From surviving a tornado to hanging on against the fierce winds of regulatory adversity, the Yates have stood together.”

Foster, with the petroleum association, said other New Mexico counties have passed ordinances that protect water without outright bans on drilling. Santa Fe County, for instance, required companies to build all the necessary roads and infrastructure for an oil or gas field before receiving a permit to drill.

If Mora County were truly concerned about water quality, it would have restricted other industries, such as agriculture, the suit says.

John Olivas, a fifth-generation New Mexican who is chairman of the county commission, said the county has been discussing the need to protect its water since about 2006, when companies first began leasing drilling rights. The commissioners were also concerned about the low prices that oil companies offered to Mora County residents for leasing their drilling rights, he said in an interview.

Olivas works as a hunting guide and also does consulting work for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and other environmental groups. He said the county wasn’t looking for a legal fight, but understood that the ordinance would create controversy.

“That was a stance that we took — a little, small community in northern New Mexico standing up to a giant corporation,” he said.

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TransCanada Has Already Had To Fix 125 Dents and Sags in Southern Keystone Pipeline

CREDIT: Public Citizen

Synthetic crude oil hasn’t yet entered the southern segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, but a report releasedTuesday by non-profit consumer rights group Public Citizen says the pipes are already bending, sagging and peeling to the point of a possible spill or leakage of toxic tar sands.

Drawing on the accounts of landowners, citizens and former workers of TransCanada, the report documents alleged construction problems and engineering code violations along the Texas portion of the pipeline, proved by what the group says is a staggering amount of excavations to correct dents and patch holes. Public Citizen is calling on the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration to review TransCanada’s construction quality assurance records for possible federal violations, and perform a complete re-testing of the pipeline to see if the repairs work.

“The government should investigate, and shouldn’t let crude flow until that is done,” Public Citizen’s Texas office director Tom Smith said in a statement. “Given the stakes — the potential for a catastrophic spill of hazardous crude along a pipeline that traverses hundreds of streams and rivers and comes within a few miles of some towns and cities — it would be irresponsible to allow the pipeline to start operating.”

One of the landowners cited in the study is David Whitley, a self-described “go-along guy” who owns an 80-acre plot of land in Texas which the pipeline crosses.

At first Whitley cooperated with TransCanada’s construction crew and did not dispute construction of the pipeline, deciding that “I wasn’t going to let it give me any more gray hairs,” Whitley said on a conference call with reporters. His attitude changed, however, when workers returned months after construction to do a visual inspection. The workers dug a hole in the ground of Whitley’s property, and he got his first look at Keystone.

“It changed my attitude seeing what was running underneath my property,” Whitley said, noting that there were two red marks on the pipeline that said “dented, cut out.” The pipeline, he said, was resting on a rock.

The report cites more than 125 excavations in 250 miles of possible problems with pipe that had been buried for months. The report says TransCanada is touting the excavation and subsequent pipe replacements as a demonstration of its commitment to safety, but Public Citizen’s report says the company is in danger of of repeating its tainted history of problems with pipeline construction and safety. From the report:

During the construction of Keystone I, TransCanada pledged to meet 50 special conditions. But more than 47 anomalies along the line in four states had to be retested, and the Keystone I line spilled 12 times in the first year of operation.

In July 2011, TransCanada’s Bison natural gas pipeline exploded within the first six months of operation, blowing out an approximate 40-foot section of pipe. TransCanada had been warned of potential quality problems with construction and inspection.

In the 1990s, Iroquois Pipeline Operations, a subsidiary of TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., and four senior executives pleaded guilty to knowingly violating environmental and safety provisions of the pipeline construction permit. Iroquois executives had promised a pipeline of exceptional safety. [It crosses the historic territory of Iroquois Confederacy thru present-day NY & CT!]

The report also calls on Congress to hold oversight hearings to make sure that PHMSA investigates and addresses the safety of the pipeline. Smith said PHMSA should perform two tests: A so-called “Hydro test,” which pressurizes the pipeline to levels higher than it would normally experience, and an “caliper inline inspection,” which would look for problems on the inside of the pipeline.

“The consequences of a failure would be grave,” Smith said. “Our goal is to try and make sure if it operates it is operated as safely as possible and that the line itself secures the product to make sure that we don’t create additional problems down the line.”

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It’s back: Texas in ‘Super Highway’ deal with Spain

WND Politics | December 29, 2012 | Jerome R. Corsi

Link to original article.

NEW YORK – Believe it or not, the Trans-Texas Corridor is back.

Very quietly, Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, signed in October a comprehensive development agreement to construct a toll-road redevelopment of Interstate 35 north of downtown Fort Worth.

TxDOT signed the 50-year deal with NTE Mobility Partners Segments 3 LLC, a U.S.-based wholly-owned subsidiary of Cintra, the Spanish-owned construction company. TxDOT picked Cintra in 2005 to build what some critics called the “NAFTA Super Highway.”

Chris Lippincot, the former TxDOT information officer who is currently acting as the new public relations man for Cintra in the United States, also announced TxDOT signed a contract in September with Cintra to build a privatized State Highway 130 toll road in San Antonio.

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Perry may never have abandoned his original idea to build what during the presidential administration of George W. Bush was known as the Trans-Texas Corridor project, a 4,000-mile network of privately built and operated toll roads to crisscross the state, with Spanish development company Cintra scheduled to earn the tolls under 50-year leases.

In 2009, Perry scrapped the TTC plan after a series of combative town hall meetings throughout the state showed TxDOT it faced massive taxpayer resistance.

But now, the plan apparently is being implemented in small chunks, without the fanfare of divulging a statewide blueprint Perry and TxDOT may still have tucked away in their back pockets.

Was TTC ever really dead?

Operating below the radar of public opinion, Texas currently has $20 billion in roadwork underway through public-private partnerships, according to Ted Houghton, TxDOT chairman, the Texas Tribune reported earlier this month.

Despite Perry’s pledge in 2009 to end the Trans-Texas Corridor project with Cintra, TxDOT has kept the public-private partnership toll road concept alive by proposing smaller projects for the approval of the Texas state legislature.

Nicholas Rubio, the president of Cintra’s U.S. arm in Austin, told the Texas Tribune that Cintra currently has contracts for three road projects in Texas, consisting of approximately $5 billion in private investment against about $1 billion in public subsidies.

“You have to recognize, in general, that policymakers in Texas have been ahead of the curve,” Rubio told the Tribune. “The states that have been developing P3s (public-private partnerships) are Texas, Florida, Virginia, and that’s about it.”

In October, Perry and Rafael del Pino, chairman of Ferrovial, Cintra’s parent company in Spain, attended the grand launch of a 41-mile stretch of State Highway 130 P3 project between Austin and Sequin.

Texas owns the land on which the SH 130 P3 project is built, but a private consortium owned and operated by Cintra is scheduled to build the toll road. It’s to be operated under a 50-year lease, with Cintra taking the lion’s share of the tolls collected over the next 50 years to recover construction costs and to make a profit.

To make the SH 130 toll road palatable to Texas drivers, the speed limit will be set to 85 miles per hour, the fastest posted limit in the United States.

A look-back to the Bush era

Quietly but systematically, the Bush administration in conjunction with Perry in Texas advanced the plan to build a huge highway, four football fields wide, through the heart of Texas, parallel to Interstate 35, from the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas, to the Texas border with Oklahoma.

The Trans-Texas Corridor moved ahead to begin construction following the re-election of Perry in November 2006.

Plans to build TTC-35 were fully disclosed on KeepTexasMoving.org, a now defunct official TxDOT website.

On March 11, 2005, a “Comprehensive Development Agreement” was signed by TxDOT to build the “TTC-35 High Priority Corridor” parallel to Interstate 35.

The contracting party was a limited partnership formed between Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., a publically-listed company headquartered in Spain, majority controlled by the Madrid-based Groupo Ferrovial, and a San Antonio-based construction company, Zachry Construction Corporation.

The Cintra deal meant that once the TTC was completed, anyone who wanted to drive on it would have to pay an investment consortium in Spain for the privilege of driving in Texas.

Although somewhat incomprehensible to most U.S. citizens, these public-private partnerships involve selling off key U.S. infrastructure projects to foreign entities.

Granted, the “ownership” rights of projects like TTC-35 would have remained with the state of Texas, yet selling off the leasing rights amounts in the thinking of most U.S. citizens to selling off the highway to foreign interests for the term of the lease.

Under the terms of the TTC agreements with TxDOT, Cintra would have had the rights to operate TTC-35 for 50 years and to collect all tolls on the road in that period of time.

The Comprehensive Development Agreement called for Cintra-Zachry to provide private investment of $6 billion “to fully design, construct and operate a four-lane, 316-mile toll road between Dallas and San Antonio for up to 50 years as the initial segment of TTC-35.

For this, Cintra-Zachry paid the state of Texas $1.2 billion for the long-term right to build and operate the initial segment as a toll facility.

In April 2006, TxDOT released a 4,000-page Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, for what was described as the “Trans-Texas Corridor-25 Oklahoma to Mexico/Gulf Coast Element.”

The April 2006 EIS made clear that Cintra-Zachry planned to build a 1,200-foot-wide (approximately four football fields wide) complex with 10 lanes of highway – five lanes in each direction, north and south.Three lanes in each direction would be reserved for passenger vehicles and two separate lanes reserved for trucks.

The EIS design included six rail lines running parallel to the highway, with separate rail lines in each direction for high-speed rail, commuter rail and freight rail.

Finally, the design called for a 200-foot wide utility corridor that would include pipelines for oil, natural gas, water, telecommunications and data, as well as electricity towers.

According to the TxDOT Trans-Texas Corridor Plan adopted in June 2002, TxDOT ultimately would build some 4,000 miles of highway-railway-utility super-corridors throughout Texas over the next 50 years, using some 584,000 acres of what is now Texas farm and ranchland, at an estimated cost of $184 billion.

The TTC plan left little doubt TTC toll-road super-corridors were designed to facilitate international trade, primarily speeding trucks and trains carrying “inter-modal” containers from Mexican ports to destinations in the heartland of the U.S.

The full TTC build-out was designed to move goods through Texas rapidly, bypassing the major cities.

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.

source:  http://www.law360.com/articles/385751/nestle-peddling-tap-water-as-spring-sourced-suit-says