Why have a middleman at all?

For the sake of argument, let’s make a few assumptions.

Let’s assume that the Centre County groundwater system in the vicinity of Spring and Benner townships is abundant enough that withdrawing and exporting 158 million gallons per year will not have any appreciable ecological effect on the volume or temperature of downstream waterways and biota.

Let’s assume that the groundwater in the vicinity of Spring and Benner townships is pure enough to meet standards for bottled water, despite its proximity to the Titan Energy Park/Cerro/Bolton Metals toxic waste remediation site.

Let’s assume that the general public in Centre County is extremely interested in good-paying jobs and the establishment of profitable, sustainable businesses.

Let’s assume that the general public in Centre County (outside of a subset of environmental activists) cares far less about the environmental effects of plastic single-use water bottles, either the petroleum use involved in manufacturing bottles or the landfill and ocean plastic patch involved in throwing away bottles.

Let’s assume that the Spring Township Water Authority has the legal power and the technical capacity to drill and operate water wells, build and maintain distribution pipelines to homes and businesses, and keep track of income and expenses.

Let’s assume that the technology involved in plastic, single-use water bottling is not especially complex or proprietary.

Let’s assume that the working population of Centre County is capable of learning how to operate a water bottling facility and distribution network.

Let’s assume that, whatever civil engineering skills may be required for design and construction of a water bottling plant, beyond the skills Spring Township Water Authority already has, the authority would be capable of putting such projects out to public bid, to obtain competent consultant assistance from the lowest competent bidder.

Let’s assume that bottling public groundwater for private sale is extremely profitable.

Let’s assume that the Centre County Commissioners and the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County truly want to see investment in new businesses with good-paying jobs in the county.

If all of those assumptions are true, why would the people of Spring and Benner townships forfeit the enormous profits to private shareholders around the world, by having Nestle build the water bottling plant and sell the water?

Wouldn’t it make more sense for the people of Spring and Benner townships to solicit Centre County investors, via bond issue perhaps, to construct a publicly-owned water bottling plant, so that the profits from the private sale of public water go entirely to the people of Centre County?

Why should the townships, county and school districts settle for the table scraps of a few jobs and some tax revenue, and leave the eight-course gourmet profit meal for Nestle and Nestle’s shareholders?

And if sale of groundwater in single-use bottles is really as profitable as it appears to be, wouldn’t public ownership of the bottling plant create a sustainable Centre County reinvestment fund, to support establishment of other locally-controlled, job-creating businesses?

Would public ownership, perhaps phased into some kind of worker-owned syndicalism, make it easier to prioritize employment of local people even over automated robotic systems, and easier to prioritize sale of bottled water to grocery stores upstream in the Spring Creek watershed, increasing the proportion of bottled water that recharges regional groundwater through the sewage treatment system and decreasing the proportion that leaves the watershed?

If the plan goes forward as proposed in the Term Sheet, Nestle shareholders will reap enormous private profits from public water resources, public capital investment (construction of the “Cerro Well”), and public risk-taking: risks of contamination or depletion of groundwater supplies, downstream habitats, and tourism-related small business revenues.

That seems dumb to me, subjecting the people of Centre County the worst aspects of both socialism and capitalism, while showering all of the benefits on Nestle.

Let’s help Spring Township Water Authority build and operate its own water bottling plant.

And let’s limit Nestle to choosing whether or not to bid on the technical consulting contract when it comes time to put out the Request for Proposals in a public bidding process.

For reference: Guide to Municipal Authorities

“The Municipality Authorities Act of 1945 describes an authority as “a body corporate and politic” authorized to acquire, construct, finance, improve, maintain and operate projects, provide financing for insurance reserves, make loans, and to borrow money and issue bonds to finance them.

Although local government plays a role in creation of an authority and appoints the members of its board, the authority is not part of the municipal government. An authority is not the creature, agent or representative of the municipality, but is an independent agency of the Commonwealth.

It is a public corporation engaged in the administration of civil government. An authority is a separate legal entity with power to incur debt, own property and finance its activities by means of user charges or lease rentals. An authority can be a financing agent for a capital project, an operating entity or both. Authorities finance a significant share of local capital improvements.”

 

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