Nestlé Plans to Plunder 1.1M Gallons a Day from Florida Natural Springs
Colors and shapes of underwater world / Moment Open / Getty Images
Nestlé Waters' proposal to take 1.1 million gallons per day from Ginnie Springs has drawn a backlash from conservationists who say the food giant wants to take publicly owned water and sell it back to the public, as the Guardian reported.
Conservationists fear that if Nestlé's plans go through, there will be considerably less water in Ginnie Springs, which sits in the Santa Fe River and serves as a home for several species of turtles that nest on the river's banks. Environmental groups say the river is too fragile to serve Nestlé's interests since it is already labeled as "in recovery" by the Suwannee River water management district after years of over pumping, as the Guardian reported.
Residents have also criticized the business practice that allows for taxpayer money to restore the spring, while allowing Nestlé to take water out. The Florida Water Resources Act declared that all the water in springs, rivers and lakes is the property of the state, not the landowners, but it never set a price on water. That means, Nestlé will be able to take the state's water, but not pay the state for it, according to the Gainesville Sun.
"[W]e have an ethical issue with our state putting large sums of money into conservation practices and recharge projects on the Santa Fe River and then, at the same time, counteracting this action by fomenting the free extraction of a publicly owned natural resource by a for-profit company," wrote Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Jim Tatum, from the conservation group Our Santa Fe River, in a column for the Gainesville Sun. "Essentially, taxpayers are funding replenishment of the aquifer and then allowing Nestlé to take it out and sell it back to us."
That bizarre marketplace has residents teaming up with conservationists to ask the Suwannee River Water Management District to deny renewing Nestlé's permit.
"Ginnie Springs is one of Florida's treasures. It's loved by locals and travelers alike," Julienne Wallace wrote in creating a change.org petition, as the Gainesville Sun reported. "Nestlé is known for destroying places like Ginnie Springs and its breaking our hearts! PLEASE DON'T GIVE NESTLÉ THE PERMIT TO TAKE WATER FROM GINNIE SPRINGS!!!"
The current permit holder, Seven Springs, has never drawn more than 260,000 gallons per day, but Nestlé has invested heavily in a new bottling plant so it can draw as much water as possible. Nestlé insists that that drawing 1.1 million gallons of water per day is only .05% of the total daily volume there, according to WTSP News in Tampa.
"Springwater is a rapidly renewable resource when managed correctly. Nestlé Waters North America is committed to the highest level of sustainable spring water management at all of the springs we manage," Nestlé Waters North America said in a written statement posted on its website. "We have worked to be a good neighbor in Florida for decades. Our commitment goes beyond just caring about the water. We value our relationships with Florida residents and community leaders, and always strive to create shared value within the communities where we operate."
That argument did not hold much water with Malwitz-Jipson who said to the Guardian, "The Santa Fe River is already in decline [and] there's not enough water coming out of the aquifer itself to recharge these lovely, amazing springs that are iconic and culturally valued and important for natural systems and habitats.
"It's impossible to withdraw millions of gallons of water and not have an impact. If you take any amount of water out of a glass you will always have less."
She also pointed to the threat the permit will pose to wildlife. "Few places on Earth have as many turtle species living together and about a quarter of all North American freshwater turtle species inhabit this small river system. A big threat to this diversity is habitat degradation, which will happen with reduced flows," she said to the Guardian.
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By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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