The news article is a month old but that doesn’t make it any less infuriating. Potable water is becoming a major environmental issue, something that folks in the southeast of the US already know since they are experiencing a drought. What better time to sell the multinational food and beverage giant, the Nestle Company, the rights to draw hundreds of millions of gallons of water a year from wells drilled in a state park in Florida? To add insult to injury of the taxpayers of Florida, they Nestle will rebrand it as water associated with western Maryland.
I guess Florida needs the cash, and water rights until the year 2018 in the context of a regional drought must be worth plenty to the cash strapped State of Florida. I wonder what they will do with the total revenues of $230 in permit fees they got for this? You read it right. I didn’t leave off any zeroes. $230! No taxes. No other fees. But Nestle says Floridians should be grateful:
Nestle bottles that water, ships it throughout the Southeast — much of it to Georgia and the Carolinas — and makes millions upon millions of dollars in profits on it.
The state granted Nestle permission to draw so much water against the strong recommendation of the local water management district staff. Because drought conditions were stressing the Madison Blue Spring, the staff said the amount of water drawn on the permit should be cut by more than two-thirds.
So while Florida is in a bitter dispute with its state neighbors over water use, it’s giving its water away to a private company that bottles and ships it to those very same states.
Nestle says Floridians should be grateful. Its bottling plant has generated taxes and created jobs. “You’re talking about millions and millions of dollars in tax benefit,” said spokesman Jim McClellan. “It’s a very good deal for the state of Florida.” (St. Petersburg Times via Boingboing)
Jobs of course are important to any region. The Nestle bottling plant promised 300 jobs. It hasn’t even done that:
The state did much more than fight to get Nestle the right to pump as much water as possible from the spring.
As an added incentive for Nestle, the state approved a tax refund of up to $1.68-million for the Madison bottling operation. To date, Nestle has received two refunds totaling $196,000 and requested a third tax refund.
Nestle had promised to create 300 jobs over five years. The most people it has ever employed was about 250. The number dropped to 205 late last year, 46 of them from Georgia, which Nestle defends as common for a work force along a state line.
Still, a job is a job. Very important for those employed.
But even better for Nestle. Much, much better.