Calif. AG Warns Nestle of Legal Challenge

California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. has warned Nestle that the state will challenge the environmental plan for a bottled water plant in Siskiyou County if the company does not revise its contract to pump water from the McCloud River.

"It takes massive quantities of oil to produce plastic water bottles and to ship them in diesel trucks across the United States," Brown said. "Nestle will face swift legal challenge if it does not fully evaluate the environmental impact of diverting millions of gallons of spring water from the McCloud River into billions of plastic water bottles," he added.

Although Nestle publicly offered to reduce its annual water take to 195 million gallons of spring water per year--enough to fill 3.1 billion 8-ounce plastic bottles--the company has not yet agreed to change the terms of its contract with the McCloud Community Service District. The current 50-year contract permits the company to draw 520 million gallons of spring water each year and also to pump unlimited amounts groundwater.

In a letter sent to the Siskiyou County Planning Department, Brown said that "the environmental review for the previously proposed project had serious deficiencies," yet "the proposed changes have not been memorialized in a formal document." Brown also said "the suggested changes would require significant revision of the contract between Nestle and the McCloud Community Services District, a new, formal project proposal, and circulation of a new Draft Environmental Impact Report."

Brown also said the environmental analysis fails to consider the global warming impacts of producing and transporting millions of gallons of water including:

• Greenhouse gases from producing the plastic bottles

• Electrical demand for the project

• The diesel soot and greenhouse gas emissions from truck trips.

Ninety-six percent of bottled water in the United States is sold in plastic bottles produced from fossil fuels, typically natural gas and petroleum. It took 17 million barrels of oil, not including transportation energy, to produce all the plastic bottles for American consumption in 2006. It took 900,000 tons of the chemical polyetheylene terephathalate and produced 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide to produce all this plastic.

According to data from the Pacific Institute, it would take 1.768 million barrels of oil annually to manufacture 3.1 billion 8-ounce plastic bottles, caps, and packaging to hold 195 million gallons of water.

The McCloud River is unique among California's larger rivers in that most of its water derives from springs and underground lava aquifers rather than from rainfall or snowfall. The river and its associated riparian area provide habitat for more than 200 wildlife species. The Lower McCloud has been designated a Wild Trout Stream by the state Department of Fish and Game.

Brown has asked the County of Siskiyou to revise its environmental impact report and circulate a new draft of the environmental impact report.

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