Brown Blocks Bottled Water Over Global Warming

On July 29, California’s Attorney General Jerry Brown said he will sue to block a proposed water-bottling operation in Northern California, unless its effects on global warming are evaluated.

Nestlé Waters North America wants to pump 200 million gallons of water a year from three natural springs that supply McCloud, about 280 miles north of San Francisco. The water would be bottled at a 350,000-square-foot facility on the outskirts of the former lumber town, hit hard by jobs loss in that industry.

According to the trade association Beverage Marketing Corporation, the United States consumes more bottled water than any other country and ranks number nine in per-capita consumption. We average more than four and a half times the individual consumption of the global average. The amount of bottled water consumed in the United States has more than doubled since 2000, but the amount of water imported from outside the U.S. has also increased.

David Palais, Nestlé’s Northern California natural resource manager, said the company was already planning additional studies, including climate change, for a new environmental review of the bottling plant.

“We appreciate the attorney general’s letter and share his commitment to ensuring that new projects in California do not negatively impact the environment,” Palais said in a statement. He said the company will conduct additional studies over the next two or three years. Afterward, Siskiyou County will prepare a new environmental impact report for the project.

Attorney General Brown, a former California governor, said the company must put its revisions into a new contract with the town of McCloud, in Siskiyou County. He wants “proper study of the environmental consequences” of the bottling operation, saying the previous draft review had “serious deficiencies.” He said it failed to include an examination of whether the operation will contribute to global warming through the production of plastic bottles, the operation’s electrical demands and the diesel soot and greenhouse gas emissions produced by trucks traveling to and from the plant.

“It takes massive quantities of oil to produce plastic water bottles and to ship them in diesel trucks across the United States,” Brown said in a statement. “Nestlé 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.”

It likely also does not include the benefits of bottling water in California as opposed to air freighting it in from places like Fiji and France. And transporting water far distances by air emits much more greenhouse gasses than local transportation by truck, just as does importing petroleum in tanker ships from the Middle East, compared to domestic production.

If the attorney general wants to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gasses, he needs to understand the implication of forcing suppliers to bring water greater distances, which simultaneously harms our state and local economies. He needs to focus on the large picture and remember that the economy and jobs are part of the environment. Bottling water in California is likely to have net environmental benefits.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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