Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Maine To Set Fox In Charge Of Henhouse? Nestlé Exec Proposed For Board of Enviro Protection

Appointment or Disappointment?
Guest post by Nickie Sekera, Community Water Justice

Maine Governor Paul LePage is in the process of appointing a full-time employee of Nestlé (Poland Spring) and is the world’s largest food and beverage corporation, to Maine's Board of Environmental Protection. The appointment of someone which such a flagrant conflict of interest in unethical and constitutes a dangerous and short-sighted precedent.

The Environmental and Natural Resources Committee will be holding a hearing this Wednesday and will be open to the public.

Committee Chairman Senator Thomas Saviello has acknowledged his longstanding personal relationship with Nestlé executive Mark Dubois, the governor’s pick for the sensitive post, and has endorsed his appointment. Sen. Saviello represents Maine's 17th district, in which Nestle is expanding its Poland Spring bottling plant and which contains several extraction and test well sites feeding into it, adds a further conflict of interest to the confirmation process.

For the past twelve years, Dubois has served as Natural Resource Manager for Nestlé, a position in which he oversees the selection of new spring sites for water mining in environmentally-sensitive areas to export out of state. In his position, he is obliged to increase profits for the shareholders to his company and therefore cannot be trusted give priority to defend the best interests of Mainers by serving on the board which would oversee an important component of Nestlé’s operations.

There is already a disturbing level of interplay between Nestlé and a number of state agencies, regulatory boards and municipalities. For example, Tom Brennan, another natural resource manager for Nestlé, sits on Maine’s Drinking Water Commission. The Maine Public Utilities Commission, which oversees water rates for consumers, is also rife with conflicts of interest with Nestlé.

Too much time and resources are already being spent by citizens having to serve as watchdogs to keep these public entities from compromising the public good for private interests, a process made all the more difficult when so much of Nestlé’s decisions that impact the state are proprietary and not available to the public.

The people of Maine need assurance that our best interests are being represented. The imbalance of power with a corporation which boasts a market capitalization of $247 billion—more than 30 times the entire annual state budget—is not something to take lightly. United Nations consultants have referred to Nestle and their subsidiaries as “global water predators” due to their troublesome environmental record. Maine has water and Nestle employees like Dubois are tasked to secure it.

It's no wonder the Center for Public Integrity gave Maine an "F" rating in a recent 2015 report, due to the state’s lax laws upholding ethics and accountability. Conflicts of interest such as the Dubois appointment are a huge obstacle to maintaining the integrity of our government in serving the people of Maine. In theory, state civil servants must recuse themselves from actions in which they may have a conflict of interest, yet we often have little legal recourse in challenging such betrayals of public trust.

We must ask our state senators and representatives: Which side are you on? Protecting the public good or serving private corporate interests?

This is not an appointment but a disappointment.

If our elected state officials are unwilling to do the right thing on their own volition, the people of Maine need to take action to challenge such conflicts of interests and restore faith in our state government.

Please encourage your state senators and representatives to oppose the Dubois nomination and consider attending the public hearing of the ENR committee that will be taking place at the state capitol in Augusta at 10:00am on Wednesday, January 24, in Room 216 of the Cross building.

Write to the members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee that this appointment is unacceptable:

Also, reach out / copy the email to your State Senator and Representative. We need to let all our leaders know that this is unacceptable. You can find them by town at this link: http://legislature.maine.gov/house/townlist.htm

Thank you.

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