Jefferson County, FL stopped Nestle; counties can stop Sabal Trail

A foreign company wanting to take local resources and not even provide any local jobs, only in “preliminary stages”: sound familiar? Swiss company Nestlé used the same playbook to try to grab water from the Wacissa River that Houston company Spectra Energy is trying to gouge its hundred-foot right of way for its yard-wide fracked methane pipeline through Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Wacissa and Jefferson County, Florida fought back and won. Counties can do the same to stop that pipeline.

Brett Adler wrote for the Florida Independent 2 December 2010, Nestle draws fire for plans to pump more water from North Florida springs,

Citizens in North Florida are gearing up for what many foresee as a drawn-out battle with Nestle Waters North America, the country’s largest water bottler, which recently completed test wells in Jefferson County as part of its process to determine whether to apply for a permit to begin withdrawing spring water from sites along the Wacissa River.

While the Swiss-based corporation insists it is only in the preliminary stages of the process and has yet to submit a formal proposal to the scientific body charged with overseeing the region, the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), citizens and local officials are already voicing concern with placing increased strain on Florida’s spring system without creating any new jobs and providing little or no benefit to the state or surrounding community.

If approved, the Nestle load station will serve as a supplemental water source, drawing approximately 400,000 gallons per day that will be transported 40 miles via tanker trucks to Nestle’s Madison Blue Springs bottling facility. Local critics insist their small, rural roads cannot support the additional traffic or degradation that 70 trucks a day would bring, while springs experts note that flow rates for the Wacissa River need to be established before sustainable withdrawal amounts can be determined — something that isn’t scheduled to take place until 2016.

Well, that all sounds familiar! Not just because of Madison Blue Springs; more about that here. Because the tactics Nestlé used are the same that Spectra Energy is using for its proposed yard-wide hundred-foot-right-of-way fracked methane pipeline.

Maybe we’ll soon start to hear this about that pipeline:

[Florida] Rep. [Leonard L.] Bembry [District 10], who will also be present at the meeting, insists both the environment and the people have nothing to gain from the venture.

“This is not about jobs for the Wacissa area, it’s about natural resources,” he said. “To me, [Nestle is] just adding more opportunity to their formula, and I’m just not sure that the people are well served in that situation. There’s not anything in it for the citizens of the Wacissa area. I can’t see why anyone would support it.”

Bembry and others expected the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) to reject Nestleé’s permit. And Nestlé expected SRWMD to approve:

“Even if another year’s worth of testing suggests it is worth pursuing, we still must work through a lengthy and thorough permitting process,” Koptiuch wrote. “Geologists, engineers and scientists from the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) will go through our application with a fine-toothed comb. Only if they are satisfied that our planned usage will cause no harm will we be allowed to proceed. That is the public’s guarantee of sustainability.”

Nestlé’s Koptiuch even wrote an op-ed in Tallahasee.com 5 November 2010, Good stewardship will help protect the Wacissa.

Sucking up massive amounts of water and calling it sustainable? Sounds like Spectra Energy claiming to be sustainable while gouging hundred-foot rights of way for yard-wide fracked methane piplines that corrode, leak, explode, and use massive amounts of groundwater for pressure testing, and even more for “natural” gas power plant cooling. Kind of like the old advertisements for healthy cigarettes.

In the end, SRWMD didn’t decide.

Mary Ellen Klas wrote for the Miami Herald 27 July 2011, Nestle rejects pumping from Wacissa for its bottled water plan,

Grassroots lobbying groups mounted an educational campaign to prevent the pumping. Nestle ordered a scientific review. On Wednesday, the company backed off the proposal.

Kent Koptiuch, Florida Natural Resource Manager for Nestlé Waters North America said the company spent a year studying the spring to determine if the water discharge was “sufficiently abundant and sustainable to serve as a spring source for our company.” It concluded that seasonal low flows “do not meet our strict selection criteria for a stable, sustainable water supply.”

That’s right, same Nestlé rep. six months later said Nestlé was backing out. SRWMD was supposedly in charge of reviewing the “science”, but the foreign company unilaterally decided to use its own research as an excuse not to proceed. Kind of like Williams Company decided this spring not to pursue the Bluegrass pipeline in Kentucky because of “an insufficient level of firm customer commitment”. It’s never because of widespread citizen opposition, nope, not at all; demonstrators have no effect, you betcha.

Wacissa’s county didn’t stop there. Corporate Accountability Internationl reported 16 September 2011, WACISSA RESIDENTS PROTECT THEIR WATER FROM BOTTLERS,

WACISSA, FL — Residents of Wacissa, Fla., have ensured that the Wacissa River will be protected from water bottlers for generations to come. After successfully compelling Nestlé to abandon plans to pump water from the Wacissa River, residents today passed an ordinance that will protect the Wacissa River from water bottling in the future.

This ordinance will protect the river by ensuring that attempts to take water from the county for bottling will have to be approved by four out of the five county commissioners. This high level of scrutiny is critical, say residents, because of the underhanded tactics that corporations like Nestlé use to seize rights to community water like the Wacissa River.

“They knew what they were after, and they knew what they had to do to go get it,” said Jeff Granger, Wacissa resident.

In June of 2010, Nestlé set up four test wells to assess the Wacissa River as a potential site to pump water and truck it to a Nestlé bottling plant outside of Jefferson County, where Wacissa is located. This site would have pumped up to 1.5 million gallons of water a day from this undeveloped spring location, while taking a significant toll on the environment. Ounce for ounce, it takes nearly 2,000 times the energy to product and distribute bottled water than it does for tap water.

According to the Jefferson County Commmission Minutes of 15 September 2011:

ITEM 6(b): PUBLIC HEARING – Ordinance No. 2011-072111-02
Aquifer Protection Ordinance (First Reading)

  1. Attorney Scott Shirley introduced the ordinance by reading the title and introduction. He explained that water bottling procedures were distinguishes from a water utility and that even if there was infrastructure to support water bottling facilities, a corresponding land classification would be required to support those operations. He further commented that the next step would be putting together an aforementioned springs protection group. On motion by Commissioner Monroe, seconded by Commissioner Nelson and unanimously carried, the Board approved Ordinance 2011-072111-02. Chairman Fulford announced the second reading would be heard at the morning meeting in October.

And in the Minutes of 6 October 2011:

ITEM 6(a): PUBLIC HEARING – Aquifer Protection Ordinance

  1. Attorney Scott Shirley introduced the second reading of Resolution No. 2011-072111-02 by reading the title and introduction. He noted that this regarded regulating land use, but not the consumptive use of water as a municipality. On motion by Commissioner Monroe, seconded by Commissioner Nelson and unanimously carried, the approved Aquifer Protection Ordinance, Resolution No. 2011-072111-02.

And this appears to be Ordinance No. 2011-072111-02. It’s six pages long, starting with citing the state comprehensive planning act, and with many WHEREASes about potable water, recreation, ecosystem, etc. Quite a few are relevant to any potential pipeline ordinance. This one, for example:

WHEREAS, there exist in Jefferson County a number of stream-to-sink systems where riverine or lake surface water flow into sinkholes with no surface water outlet and thereby introducing surface water directly into the groundwater aquifer; stream-to-sink systems present an increased risk of contamination of potable groundwater and spring water resources from land based activities.

In the actual land use code changes, under Local Public Service Activities they carefully distinguished drinking water and wastewater facilities by adding:

but excluding water pumping stations and other facilities associated with or used for, the production of bottled water.

In Location Criteria and Other Restrictions they didn’t just close the barn door, they put up fences and watchtowers to keep any foreign company from sneaking in and stealing their water:

  1. The County shall not approve any development associated with, or related to, the production of bottled water without approval of the County bv a supermajoritv (defined as a minimum of 4 votes in favor) vote of the Board of County Commissioners.
  2. Development infrastructure intended to support surface and groundwater withdrawals in all land use districts shall be limited to that infrastructure necessary to serve uses of land which are otherwise allowable designated land uses in the district where such infrastructure is proposed to be located.
  3. The use of landscaping best management practices as stated in the Florida Friendly Best Management Practices for Protection of Water Resources by the Green industries (Florida Department of Environmental Protection 2008) is encouraged.
  4. All new golf course siting, design construction and management shall implement the prevention management and monitoring_practices detailed in the golf course siting, design and management chapter of the Protecting Florida’s Springs Manual — Land Use Planning Strategies and Best Management Practices (Florida Department of Communitv Affairs and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2002.
  5. The County shall encourage the use of water management conservation measures which will assure the retention of groundwater to protect the coastal bays and springsheds and assure emergency water conservation in the case of groundwater contamination.

Some of that could be used directly in an ordinance to prevent pipeline water use for pressure testing.

Under Major Development Jefferson County added three conditions “requiring final development approval by the Planning Commission and the Board of County Commissioners if it is:”

  1. Any development associated with or related to the production of bottled water which must also be approved by supermajoritv (defined as a minimum of 4 votes in favor) vote of the Board of County Commissioners.
  2. Any development involving the installation of infrastructure to support or to be served by large scale withdrawals of groundwater (greater than 100,000 gallons per day as a thirty (30) day rolling average) for purposes other than agriculture irrigation recreation or construction dewatering.
  3. Any development involving the installation of infrastructure for a public or private utility.

I am not a lawyer, but it sure seems like this type of ordinance could be used to stop a pipeline.

-jsq

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