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Using a permit that expired in 1988, Nestlé pumps millions of gallons of water a year from the San Bernardino National Forest in drought-stricken southern California.  

CCI launched a petition against Nestle’s water usage in the spring of 2015. According to Eddie Kurtz, executive director of CCI, the petition went viral and racked up 185,000 signatures. Combined with similar petitions from partner organizations, Kurtz said the total number of signatures has topped 500,000.

“The ecosystem in San Bernardino forest is being harmed,” said Eddie Kurtz, the executive director of the Courage Campaign Institute, one of three groups that filed the suit. “It’s not an environment that can afford to send its water to Nestlé to profit off of.”

The suit not only sheds light on the ethics and optics of bottling water during a historic drought. It also raises questions about the very idea of large corporations profiting off of what is widely considered a shared public resource.

"They're supposed to be making sure the ecology of those public lands is protected," said Rachel Doughty, an attorney representing the Story of Stuff Project and Courage Campaign Institute, which are plaintiffs in the suit. "They're not doing this."

The Center for Biological Diversity, the Story of Stuff Project, and the Courage Campaign Institute filed the federal suit on Tuesday, calling for an immediate halt to Nestlé’s water pipeline at Strawberry Creek. The water is bottled and sold under Nestlé’s Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water brand.

An investigation by the Desert Sun in March found that while Nestlé, the largest bottled water company in the U.S., holds water rights to the area, its permit to transport water across the national forest expired in 1988. Since it has not been renewed, the U.S. Forest Service hasn’t examined the ecological impact of Nestle’s removal of tens of millions of gallons of water each year, the paper reported.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Story of Stuff Project and the Courage Campaign Institute. They are calling for the Forest Service to halt Nestle’s use of a pipeline that carries water from 11 wells out of the San Bernardino National Forest for bottling.

“Modern scrutiny would never let this kind of stuff happen,” said Eddie Kurtz, executive director of the Courage Campaign Institute, a public policy group that is co-plaintiff in the suit. “Our understanding is there are a lot of permits like these all over the country.”

The suit, filed by advocacy groups the Story of Stuff Project, the Courage Campaign Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity, comes amidst an historic drought that has prompted policies requiring the state’s residents to cut personal water use. The plaintiffs argue that corporations shouldn’t get such unfettered water use while regular people have to cut back.

“Nestlé’s actions aren’t just morally bankrupt, they are illegal,” said Eddie Kurtz, executive director of the Courage Campaign Institute, in a statement. “Our government won’t stand up to them, so we’re taking matters into our own hands.”

Los Angeles Galaxy Head Coach and General Manager Bruce Arena will be honored Thursday with the Spirit of Courage Award during the Courage Campaign Institution’s Fifth Annual Spirit of Courage Awards.

The award recognizes those who exemplify courage in the fight for a more fair and just society.

La Courage Campaign (Campania del Coraje) es una comunidad en la red de más de un millón de miembros que pelean por una California y un país más progresista. Sus tres principales objetivos son la justicia económica, los derechos humanos, y la responsabilidad política y corporativa.


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