The No to Nestle forum was held on March 14th at CPI. Thank you to the individuals who brought this together, the staff at CPI who helped them set up the meeting, and the organizations who were present: the newly-formed Concerned Citizens of Pleasant Gap, Clearwater Conservancy, Food and Water Watch, Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition, Sierra Club Moshannon, and Trout Unlimited. You can watch a video of resident Courtney Morris speaking and read coverage in the CDT. More to come. My remarks (without some ad lib elaborations) are below.
Thanks for being here tonight. My name is Peter Buckland. I’m a lifetime Pennsylvanian. My first home was on Purdue Mountain but I’ve lived most of my years in the Centre Region where I’ve been active on community and environmental issues. I also serve in local government. Whatever I say tonight, I need to be clear—I am not representing the township I serve in, my employer, or any group.
I’m going to ask you to do one thing. Please look to your left and right and shake the hand of someone you don’t know.
No matter who we are, we are neighbors. This issue is already running hot. No matter how it goes, I hope you’ll keep in mind something that a mentor of mine said: “I have never regretted being kind.” I’ll repeat that. “I have never regretted being kind.” In these days when our political divisions are getting too wide, I hope that everyone will do their best to love your neighbors.
I’ve been asked to say a few words about transparency, what seems to be going on right now, and how that connects with Nestle’s actions elsewhere. If you came to the Nestle town hall the other night, you probably have a lot of questions. You aren’t alone, especially where the new wells are concerned and where things might be going. Very briefly, and perhaps restating a handful of things from Mr. Roberts’s remarks, Nestle has been in the background for some time.
Through a combination of meeting minutes, documents acquired from different agencies, and filing Right to Know requests, citizens from across the watershed have learned a few things.
An initial application for a backup well—the so-called Cerro Well—came in May 2016. A land development plan for that well was proposed to the Spring Township Planning Commission in September of 2017 and then approved in December. That seems unremarkable. However, an agreement for Nestle to gain rights to access that well were approved by the water authority in November of 2017. None of the documents citizens have accessed mention contact between Nestle and the water authority or other board members prior to that access agreement. But somehow, magically, Nestle shows up late last year and “discovers” that there is this back-up well that they could hook up to? That strains credulity.
It is unclear what the actual withdrawal rate is. A few weeks ago, it was 432,000 gallons from an existing well. But on Tuesday night, Mr. Andreus, the Natural Resources Manager for Nestle Waters told us that the Cerro Well, which I believe he called “Well #2,” will be the point of withdrawal for Nestle. Nestle will withdraw up to 499,000 gallons of the permitted 500,000 gallons. This all but removes the back-up well from being a back-up well. That drives the drilling of a third well, now planned for. This presents at least two problems.
First, it appears that ratepayers of Spring Township Water Authority just paid for Nestle’s well. That’s public investment into a private company’s infrastructure without any disclosure whatsoever that this investment was happening.
Second, as stated, there is an additional burden on the authority to drill a third well. Indeed, well security and a diverse well field makes sense. But to what end?
Third, Mr. Andreus said they would consider all “opportunities” on the table. As far as we can tell, there is no guarantee at this time that the first or third well are safe from Nestle. Based on Nestle’s track record in other communities in North America, we should expect that they are already planning to extract as much of our Commonwealth’s water as they can from publicly-funded infrastructure. I have spoken at length with a commissioner, supervisor, and resident of Osceola Township, Michigan about Nestle’s behavior there. They—along with communities in Canada, Maine, California, and elsewhere—have grabbed infrastructure and property. The results have been endless litigation, violated withdrawal permits, and depleted tax revenue. I think we would be foolish not to suspect that Nestle are already laying the groundwork for a much larger water and property grab.
None of this has been done in the public eye, despite Mr. Andreus’s statements. According to the accounts of a number of citizens and ratepayers of the Spring Township Water Authority, the authorities have been less-than-forthcoming with documents. These include an apparently Non-binding Agreement the authority board passed last month but –according to citizens and ratepayers—would not commit to releasing. A Spring Township resident was able to get it. The Non-binding Agreement is dated 2017, not 2018.
As your neighbor, I’m concerned. I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak up. I encourage everyone here to keep asking hard questions and call for open and transparent engagement and for this process to slow down. We need to slow this down because the faster it goes, the worse it will be for everyone.