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Environmental groups win documents related to Nestle operations in San Bernardino National Forest

By in Press Enterprise on August 30, 2017

By Jim Steinberg

Environmental groups seeking to stop Swiss-based Nestle from pumping millions of gallons of water from the San Bernardino National Forest, for little more than $500 a year, have prevailed in an effort to obtain documents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

After repeatedly being thwarted in their efforts to obtain the documents under the Freedom of Information Act, the Berkeley-based Story of Stuff Project and the Los Angeles-based Courage Campaign Institute filed a lawsuit on July 11 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The agency recently said it would provide some 1,000 files encompassing 18,000 pages on August 31, said Rachel Doughty, an attorney with Greenfire Law in Berkeley, who was co-counsel on the case.

The lawsuit applied pressure to the environmental groups’ request for documents as they attempt to fortify their position as the California Water Resources Control Board weighs issues regarding Nestle’s water rights in the San Bernardino National Forest.

In recent years, Nestle has withdrawn more than 30 million gallons of water annually from wells in remote Strawberry Canyon.

“This happens a lot in the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) forum. Agencies just can’t keep up with the requests,” Doughty said.

“Your request just gets pushed to the bottom of the pile unless you sue,” Doughty said.

The records being sought are “copies of any and all records pertaining in any way to the following entities with regard to the San Bernardino National Forest: Nestle Waters North America Inc., Arrowhead” or related firms.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged the FDA “failed to make a timely determination” on their March 27 Freedom of Information request.

The deadline for the FDA’s response to the two environmental groups was May 1, the lawsuit alleged.

The Story of Stuff, Courage Campaign, and others argue […]    

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