Mint Press News

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Nestlé can continue to bottle water from drought-stricken Southern California, even though the permit which allows the company to pipe water from the San Bernardino National Forest expired in 1988.

Despite a devastating, five-year drought in California, Nestlé piped about 36 million gallons from the forest last year. That water is transported to Canada for bottling, and the end product appears in stores under the Arrowhead brand. Under the current agreement, Nestlé pays the U.S. Forest Service an annual permitting fee of $524 to run its pipeline.

U.S. District Court Judge Jesus G. Bernal ruled that although the permit expired 28 years ago, Nestlé can keep bottling water because corporate executives attempted to renew the permit in May 1987, but did not hear back from the Forest Service.

“Plaintiffs do not identify and the Court cannot find any authority holding that an agency’s failure to act within a reasonable time can invalidate before it is finally determined by the agency,” Judge Bernal wrote.

In other words, since Nestlé attempted to renew the permit, it remains in effect until the Forest Service tells the corporation it is invalid. The expiration date is irrelevant.

“We are disappointed – very disappointed – in the ruling,” said Michael O’Heaney, executive director of The Story of Stuff Project, a movement to raise awareness about the dangers of consumerism, and one of three co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit, in a Sept. 21 interview with The Desert Sun’s Brett Kelman.

O’Heaney launched the lawsuit against the Forest Service in October 2015, along with Courage Campaign Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity.

“The idea that 28 years in inaction on the Forest Service’s part is considered reasonable, and perfectly fine with the court, is outrageous,” O’Heaney continued.
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