Stop Nestle – Talking Points

This flier will also be available at the Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition/Sierra Club table at PASA:

Stop Nestle – Talking Points

CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA SAYS NO TO NESTLE!!

Nestle, a multinational company that promotes corporate ownership of global water supplies, wants access to millions of gallons of our clean, safe water in order to sell it at a 300-2000X premium in exchange for about 50 jobs that may or may not materialize (and will, if Nestle fully automates its plants, disappear in time). In exchange, we assume the risk of losing ground water in times of shortage and will bear the brunt of environmental externalities.

PROTECT THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC WATER!

  • Access to clean, safe and affordable water is a human right. Does Nestle see it that way? No! Nestle’s CEO, Peter Brabeck, has clearly asserted that clean water is not a human right but a “foodstuff commodity” with values assigned by corporations.
  • What would a Nestle water bottling plant mean for us? Nestle would purchase about 300 gallons of water per minute from the Spring Township Water Authority and sell that water at 300-2000 times the price per gallon that public water customers currently pay. Most of that water would be distributed outside the region.
  • Does Nestle care about communities? Private control means little public control. As California and British Columbia suffered devastating droughts, Nestle continued extracting tens of millions of gallons of water while public users were required to reduce use. See this BBC article, and this CBC article.
  • Bottled water is inefficient and environmentally destructive. The plastic needed to supply American consumption of bottled water requires 17 million gallons of oil equivalent per year, which contributes 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, equal to the emissions of 400,000 cars. It takes three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water. Millions of tons of plastic bottles end up in landfills each year. Americans throw out 75% of all plastic bottles.
  • What about jobs? In truth, the water bottling industry as a whole creates few jobs, most of which are given to workers from outside the community. Jobs that residents do get tend to be low-paying and unsafe.

Presently, the water that we can access from our taps in Central Pennsylvania is some of the cleanest and safest water in the country. That quality of water is the result of appropriate public management and robust enforcement of environmental regulations. It is ours by right, and it is the responsibility of our elected local governments to continue maintaining and delivering safe, clean drinking water – not to sell it off to private companies.

Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition Tabling at PASA

Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition will be tabling at the PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) this coming weekend, with the Sierra Club.

We’ve prepared a new informational handout about our organization that will be available at the table.

NVEC Handout

Our Mission

Our Mission is to protect our constitutionally-guaranteed environmental rights as Pennsylvania citizens.

Our Rights and Duties

Article I Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states:

“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”

In support of these rights, the citizens of State College Borough and Ferguson Township have amended their home rule charters to include more extensive rights: a Community Bill of Rights adopted in 2011 by State College voters, and an Environmental Bill of Rights adopted in 2012 by Ferguson Township voters.

Our Goals

  • Maintain public water purity and abundance
  • Prevent urban sprawl to preserve our region’s small town and rural agricultural character, farmland, open space and the beauty of our natural environment
  • Build public understanding of our constitutionally-guaranteed environmental rights, and threats to those rights.
  • Prevent or mitigate air pollution in the face of global warming
  • Prevent or mitigate agricultural soil destruction.

Our Tools

Our tools include public information campaigns, dialog with decision-makers, direct action campaigns against polluters and sprawl developers, and if necessary, litigation against local violations of our environmental rights as Pennsylvania citizens.

Our Subcommittees

The Nittany Valley Water Coalition (NVWC) is a committee of the NVEC. For three years, the NVWC fought Penn State, Ferguson Township and Toll Brothers over the sale of 45 acres of priceless agricultural land perched above the wellfields that provide two-thirds of the drinking water for State College Borough Water Authority’s customers. This sinkhole and karst-filled farmland was sold by Penn State to Toll Brothers in December 2017.

Toll Brothers plan is to develop “luxury student housing” on our watershed.

After three years of activism and lawsuits, Toll Brothers is moving forward with this development, but our actions have raised broad public understanding of water rights, the costs of sprawl to the community, and corporate Penn State’s lack of stewardship of public natural resources. We assert that Penn State should not convert its farmlands to high-density housing, but should use them instead to promote agro-ecological farming.

The NVEC is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization.

Donations are appreciated: Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition, 539 E. Foster Ave., State College PA 16801

Email: nvec2018@gmail.com or visit: http://nittanyvalley-eco.org

NVEC Statement on Proposed Nestle Water Bottling Plant

Statement of Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition on Nestle Waters’ Proposal to Withdraw from Spring Creek Watershed

The availability and public access to clean drinking water is a global issue, particularly in an era of climate change and increased corporate control of water resources.

The waters of Centre County are exceptionally clean and abundant; they support our families and businesses, not to mention our agriculture, fishing and hunting tourism, and watershed flora and fauna.

With care, Spring Creek should provide water for many decades of continued local population growth.

However, when millions of people opt out of drinking tap water there is less political and public support for taking care of public water supplies.  

The water used by the Spring Township Water Authority comes from surface and subsurface flows around Logan Branch. Nestle Waters’ extraction of an additional 158 million gallons each year will reduce flows into Spring Creek by an equal amount, taking the water outside our community.

Other communities that have let Nestle extract local water have lost control of their water supplies, especially when confronted with drought. The callous corporate practices of Nestle in their interactions with these communities are well-documented and required expensive litigation.

While we are sympathetic to the promise of jobs from Nestle, the relative benefit of job creation may not be worth the long-term cost, especially if our groundwater becomes the target for even more bottling companies, or Nestle asks for an increased water allotment.

The water under Spring Township does not belong to Spring Township alone. Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition opposes the extraction of water from Spring Creek or groundwater in the Centre Region for bottling by Nestle Waters and other water bottling companies.

Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition is a 501(c)4 organization located in Centre County, Pennsylvania.

Nittany Valley Water Coalition – Organizing Update – UPDATED

UPDATE: January 5 meeting postponed to January 12 due to freezing temps and wind chill.

Happy New Year from Nittany Valley Water Coalition, soon to be Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition.

Coalition leaders will be meeting Friday, January 5 12 to discuss a packed agenda, including:

  1. Membership and meetings of the NVEC
  2. Next steps in the fight to protect the State College Borough Water Authority Harter-Thomas water wells from intensive land development in the wake of Penn State and Toll Brothers closing the Whitehall Road land sale on Dec. 22.
  3. Potential constitutional litigation regarding Penn State’s relationship with Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, specifically whether Penn State must act as a fiduciary trustee of Commonwealth land under the Supreme Court’s holding in Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation v. Commonwealth  (June 20, 2017). As part of this discussion, we will also be talking about what other stakeholder groups (civic, environmental, local, statewide, etc.) we should invite to join us if we file.
  4. Other Centre County campaigns the coalition may decide to engage in, including the proposed Oak Hall quarry expansion, and the proposed Nestle corporation groundwater extraction facility.
We will post updates on the outcomes of these discussions after the Friday meeting, at the Nittany Valley Water Coalition website and through the Change.org email list.

 

Water Coalition Press Release – December 19, 2017

12.19.17 NVEC Press Release

The Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition (NVEC) is preparing to file a lawsuit in January, seeking court review of Penn State’s nonprofit and public/private status, property tax exemptions, and fiduciary obligations regarding Commonwealth natural resources. The suit will be filed if Penn State’s leadership fails to negotiate a land swap with student housing developers before a 2012 sales contract for Whitehall Road parcels closes later this month or early next year.

NVEC remains willing to negotiate.

The Nittany Valley Water Coalition (NVWC, which is in the process of incorporating as the non-profit Nittany Valley Environmental Coalition) formed in late 2015 to challenge the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors approval of the land development plan under the provisions of the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code. Although Centre County Court of Common Pleas Judge Jonathan Grine vacated the supervisors’ approval in a July 2016 ruling on substantive grounds, remanding the case for further township review, Grine’s decision was overturned on a procedural technicality by the Commonwealth Court in May 2017 and in November 2017, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal brought by the water coalition.

At stake is the safety and quality of the State College area’s public drinking water supply; the community’s two main wellfields are located nearby and downslope of the proposed student housing development, in a rural agricultural area with fragile karst geology, many fractures and sinkholes, and thin soils unsuitable for filtering runoff from intensive development.

For brief background, the water coalition proposed alternative PSU-owned land to Toll Brothers during the Summer 2017 citizen occupation of the Whitehall Road site. Penn State officials raised no objections to the alternatives assessment; Toll Brothers looked at the sites and selected one parcel along West College Avenue near Blue Course Drive for feasibility studies. On Oct. 31, Toll Brothers submitted a “letter of intent” to Penn State, indicating an interest in moving their escrowed deposit for the Whitehall Road site to a purchase of the alternative site on W. College.  

NVWC subsequently proposed a mediation to work out the land swap details among Toll Brothers, Ferguson Township (involved in zoning and permitting the alternative site), Penn State administrators, and water coalition representatives. To date, Penn State Vice President for Finance and Business David Gray has refused to participate in mediation, and refused to consider Toll Brothers’ offer on the alternative site.

The new lawsuit will be a constitutional challenge, not a regulatory challenge under the Municipalities Planning Code, and will ask the courts to rule that Penn State is a Commonwealth trustee with fiduciary obligations to protect public resources under the state Environmental Rights Amendment (Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution), which was ratified by a four-to-one margin by state voters in May 1971, in response to centuries of environmental degradation and costly mitigation of industrial deforestation, unregulated hunting and mining pollution.

NVEC will ask the courts to apply the state Supreme Court’s June 20, 2017 ruling in Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation v. Commonwealth to Penn State’s actions. PEDF v. Commonwealth found that the Environmental Rights Amendment (“ERA”) created an enforceable trust imposing a fiduciary duty on all Commonwealth state and local agencies to protect public natural resources.

In the alternative, if the courts find that Penn State is not a state agency with fiduciary obligations under the ERA, but that it has, through its real estate transaction history and other actions – transformed itself from a public, land grant institution into a fully private, non-governmental corporation, the coalition will ask the courts to strip Penn State of its tax exemptions and other public subsidies.

“We’ll be striking at the root of  Penn State’s hybrid legal status that has allowed it to become a tax-exempt, publicly-subsidized, privately-governed, for-profit corporation,” said NVEC President Kelli Hoover.

The case will further give the courts an opportunity to apply the PEDF v. Commonwealth decision to another series of court decisions about Penn State’s taxability under Article VIII, Section 2 of the Pennsylvania Constitution related to tax exemptions for governmental and nonprofit entities and related legislation, including the 1997 Institutions of Purely Public Charity Act.

Two key case are often referred to as “Penn State I” and “Penn State II.”

In Penn State v. County of Centre, (1992) (“Penn State I”), the Supreme Court discussed, but didn’t decide, whether Penn State still qualified as an agency of the Commonwealth. The issue in that appeal was whether the doctrine of issue preclusion prevented the trial court from determining PSU’s status, since, in 1939, the Centre County court had ruled that Penn State was a state agency. Remanding the case for further county court review, the Supreme Court agreed with the appellants, Centre County Commissioners, that “significant changes in the factual circumstances of the University’s relationship with the Commonwealth and in the property’s uses have occurred in the last 50 years.”

In Penn State v. Derry Township School District and the County of Dauphin (1999) (“Penn State II”), the Supreme Court ruled that Penn State no longer qualified for property tax exemption as “an instrumentality of the state,” because the legislature no longer controlled governance of the institution through a majority of the Board of Trustees and state and federal support were no longer a majority of funding (outweighed by private tuition payments). The Supreme Court then remanded the case back to the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas to decide whether Penn State qualified for local real estate tax immunity as a “purely public charity” under Article VIII, Section 2(a)(v) of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the five-part analysis test established by the Supreme Court in 1985 through Hospital Utilization Project v. Commonwealth, often referred to as the “HUP” test.

After that review, the Dauphin County court in 2000 ruled that neither Penn State University nor the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center qualify as purely public charities, because neither operate “entirely free from private profit motive.” At this point in our research, we believe that Penn State entered into “payment in lieu of taxes” or “PILOT” agreements with counties, municipalities and school districts across the state, paying taxes on only a fraction of the value of University land and buildings.

As cited in another property tax exemption case in 2013 (City of Philadelphia v. Cumberland County Board of Assessment Appeal), the Supreme Court’s rulings in Penn State I and Penn State II confirmed that the University’s status is “not etched in stone,” but rather subject to change in response to changed factual circumstances.

Penn State has spent many decades carefully constructing a mixed status for the institution to internalize benefits and externalize costs, and to evade public accountability and compliance with laws that apply to public or nonprofit entities,” said Hoover. “We believe it’s vulnerable because of that complexity, which has created too many contradictions to be sustained for much longer in an era of increasing public interest in protection of critical natural resources and tightening public budgets.”

“We are thinking of our lawsuit as ‘Penn State III,’” explained Hoover. “It challenges Penn State’s property tax exemptions and PILOT agreements, through the lens of the University’s record of buying ecologically-sensitive farmland at artificially low prices (or accepting land donations), holding the land as tax-exempt while upzoning to increase its sales value, and then selling it for massive profit and risky development, exemplified by the Whitehall Road land deal.”

“For us, this suit attacks one of Penn State’s core weaknesses,” said Katherine Watt, NVEC Vice-President. “As a quasi-public, quasi-private corporation, it evades both public accountability through public elections of trustees, transparent, due-process decision procedures, and compliance with state Right to Know and ethics laws, and private corporate accountability through share issues, purchase and sale of shares by shareholders, and shareholder elections of governing directors.”

The case could have wide implications across the state for cash-strapped counties, municipalities and school districts, and – if the court rules Penn State is a fully private corporation subject to standard corporate property taxation – this could spur the creation of local trust funds from the tax revenues collected, to be used for proactive natural resource protection and for restoration projects after environmental damage has occurred.

Penn State’s opaque, profit-driven real estate transactions may also have federal implications under the 14th Amendment, if the university is found to be an agency acting under color of state law to deprive Pennsylvania citizens of enforceable environmental rights under Article I, Section 27 and the related local Community Bill of Rights adopted by State College citizens in 2011 and Ferguson Township voters in 2012, and/or deny other private property owners across the state the same access to “PILOT” agreements reducing their tax burdens to a small fraction of what they now pay.

The science.

Repost of David Hughes’ June 22, 2017 letter to Penn State President Eric Barron and the Board of Trustees.

6.22.17 Hughes to Barron and BoT

In it, Hughes summarized the scientific basis for the water coalition’s opposition to development on the fragile karst recharge area above the Harter and Thomas wellfields.

This version, lightly edited for clarity and formatted as a PDF, also includes a couple of update footnotes and a list of additional studies not cited by Hughes, but supporting the same position.

36 days later: The silence is deafening

Press release from Nittany Valley Water Coalition:

36 days later: The silence is deafening

On October 31, developer Toll Brothers submitted a Letter of Intent to Penn State expressing their desire to respect the State College community and build their student housing development on a less environmentally sensitive parcel of land on West College Avenue instead of Whitehall Road.

The response from Penn State – silence.

For almost three years the community has been asking Penn State not to sell this farmland along Whitehall Road near Blue Course Drive for development. The Nittany Valley Water Coalition (NVWC) and many others in the community object to a large student development in this location because of the risks to the local water supply and to the high quality of Slab Cabin Run, which is downslope from the development site.

Within the last two weeks, NVWC and other interested parties, through a professional mediator, requested that Penn State, Toll Brothers and Ferguson Township come to the table to negotiate a solution that would work for all parties.

Penn State alone declined because they “do not discuss real estate deals.”

NVWC and the other parties were willing to help expedite a land swap and discuss a more sustainable use for the Whitehall Road parcel. Penn State declared in writing to NVWC in early October that Penn State had no plans for the West College Avenue property, and Penn State led Toll Brothers to believe they would seriously consider an offer on this property.

But in reality Penn State was just buying time until the sale of the Whitehall Road parcel closes on Dec. 27.

For 127 days, before being evicted by Penn State, community members maintained a 24-hour occupation of the Whitehall Road site to object to a construction project that has a very real chance of affecting our water supply, as well as nearby century farms that are already experiencing extreme runoff and flooding during heavy rainfall.

Why has Penn State refused to negotiate?

Why won’t they make a complete and fact-based statement?

With the sale on Whitehall Road scheduled to close before the end of the year, it is clear that PSU intends to force Toll Brothers to complete a contract they entered into 5 years ago and no longer want due to very different available student housing circumstances and public opposition, while at the same time a better option is available.

The sound of silence is deafening from Old Main.

Thanksgiving Message from Nittany Valley Water Coalition to Penn State

Thanksgiving: It is time for PSU to give to its neighbors

Penn State University sits within the community and is reliant upon the community. However, it is fair to say that it has less than ideal town-gown relationships.

For almost three years the community has asked Penn State not to sell farmland along Whitehall Road near Blue Course Drive for development.

The Nittany Valley Water Coalition (NVWC) objects to a large student development in this location because of the risks to the local water supply and the quality of Slab Cabin Run, which is downslope from the development site.

A conservation easement is being placed on other land in this area, and Penn State should preserve this parcel for the same reasons.

More than 5,000 signatures on petitions opposing this development, 1,000 yard signs around town, and more than $40,000 in donations for legal costs all speak to the community’s support to protect this farmland.

NVWC also protests on the grounds that any development on farmland threatens neighboring farms because of increased run-off and flooding and pressure on other farmers to sell. There is a great deal of research showing that development on farmland increases the likelihood that nearby farms will find it difficult to keep farming.

Now the developer, Toll Brothers, has submitted a letter of intent to Penn State to purchase and build on an alternate site on West College Avenue, across from the Waffle Shop, which presents far less environmental risk.

To date Penn State’s response has been to stonewall, hoping that the Whitehall Road sale will close in a few weeks with no decision made by Penn State on the offer from Toll Brothers on the alternate site.

Penn State –

You are a Land Grant University with a strategic plan that aims to be good stewards of our natural resources. It should not require the citizens to tell you the right thing to do here.

As a show of good faith, we ask that you immediately begin to work with Ferguson Township to rezone the West College Avenue site, which would allow Toll Brothers to purchase it, and put a hold on the closing of the West Whitehall Road parcel and the escrow deposit until negotiations with Toll Brothers over the West College Avenue parcel are complete.

This does not commit you to the sale but it would show that you are acting in good faith.

In this Thanksgiving week please give us, your neighbors, something to be thankful for.

 

NVWC – Questions put to David Gray, PSU Vice President for Finance and Business

Email sent to David Gray by Kelli Hoover this morning:

Dear David:

I sent these questions to [Director of Community Relations] Charima [Young] on Friday, November 17.

Both the Nittany Valley Water Coalition and Toll Brothers would like answers to these questions before Thanksgiving.

These questions are:

A. Does Penn State have a list of what is expected from Toll Brothers to enable a decision to sell the West College Ave. parcel in lieu of the West Whitehall Road parcel?

B. Was a timeline established for Toll Brothers to respond and if so, what is that timeline?

[Penn State Senior Director of News and Media Relations] Lisa Powers’ list in the Centre Daily Times on November 17 was that Penn State needs:

C. “Written feasibility studies.” More than one?

D. “Zoning inquiries or recommendations…to Penn State.” Does this mean you want in writing what Toll Brothers was told by Ferguson Township staff about how the West College Ave. parcel might be re-zoned to permit student housing and light commercial? I.e., mixed use? [Toll Brothers Campus Living Managing Director] Charles Elliott can provide this information since Toll Brothers has had at least two discussions about this with Ferguson Township staff.

E.  “Overall analysis of the site.” What does this mean? This is pretty vague. Can you be more specific?

The information required from Toll Brothers needs to be clear, inclusive, and a timeline stipulated that would allow Penn State officials to review and make a decision about whether to take the offer to the Penn State Board of Trustees.

F. Who is the decision-maker about what is needed and whether or not to take this to the Board of Trustees?

G. Can you provide Penn State’s land purchase protocol/checklist that requires this list of written information Penn State needs from a buyer before they can enter a sales negotiation?

H. Would Penn State be willing to hold funds in escrow from Toll Brothers and postpone the close of the Whitehall Road contract while information and negotiations over the West College Ave. site continue? Richard Keyser, [Toll Brothers Vice President of Commercial Acquisition and Development] calls this “warehousing.”

I. We would still like information about the Penn State Real Estate Task Force, when it was created, who’s on it, and what their qualifications are.

J. Most importantly, we are requesting a meeting of yourself [representing Penn State], and representatives from Toll Brothers, Nittany Valley Water Coalition and Ferguson Township, using an agreed-upon mediator, to work out a solution that all parties can accept. Lara Fowler, who is an expert mediator, is willing to serve this role. She will be contacting you as well.

Thank you,

Kelli Hoover