Gov. Paul LePage is looking to seat a full-time employee of the world’s largest food and beverage company — Nestle Waters North America/Poland Spring Water Co. — on the Maine Board of Environmental Protection. The focus of a public hearing Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Room 2016 of the Cross Building in Augusta, the nomination of Mark Dubois is not ethically sound, and it models a short-sighted precedent for our state.

The Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee will be presiding over the confirmation hearing before it decides whether to recommend Dubois, a Nestle/Poland Spring hydrogeologist, to the full Senate. In emails to Community Water Justice members, the committee’s chairman, Sen. Tom Saviello, has acknowledged that he’s known Dubois for about 15 years and says he trusts Dubois. But Saviello represents Maine Senate District 17, where Nestle operates an expanding bottling plant with several extraction and test well sites feeding into it. The importance of Nestle/Poland Spring to Saviello’s district, plus the senator’s ties to Dubois, fuel mistrust in the confirmation process.

As a natural resource manager for Nestle/Poland Spring, Dubois actively seeks new spring sites for water mining and export. He has held the position for over 12 years. His obligation as an employee is to increase profits for the shareholders in the company he works for, so it is not appropriate for him to serve on a state board that reviews regulations that affect that company.

The interplay that already exists between Nestle/Polamd Spring and many state agencies, regulatory boards and municipalities is significant, and there is simply too much overlap. This becomes a misuse of our time and resources as it becomes necessary to have watchdogs keeping an eye out for full accountability, especially where details of Nestle/Poland Spring projects are proprietary and not available to the public.

It is important to note that Tom Brennan, another Nestle/Poland Spring natural resource manager, serves on the Maine Drinking Water Commission, which also presents a conflict of interest. So does Mark Vannoy’s work for the Maine Public Utilities Commission: The PUC oversees water rates, and Vannoy worked on multiple engineering projects for Nestle/Poland Spring before joining the commission. This is a growing problem that needs to end.

The people of Maine need assurance that our best interests are being represented. The imbalance of power between the state of Maine and a corporation that boasts a market capitalization of $247 billion is not something to take lightly. Maude Barlow, a former senior adviser on water issues to the U.N., has called those at Nestle “predators, water hunters, looking for the last pure water in the world,” due to their troublesome global record. Maine has water, and Nestle/Poland Spring employees are tasked with securing it — not with protecting it.


Because of the lack of enforcement of state government ethics and accountability rules, the Center for Public Integrity gave Maine an F rating in a 2015 report. Extreme conflicts of interest like this are a huge problem in ensuring that our government maintains its integrity and prioritizes serving the people of Maine over private interests. Civil servants are required to recuse themselves from taking action in matters in which they may have a conflict of interest. But when conflicts arise in Maine, we often have no recourse or money to pursue justice.

I ask our good elected state legislators on the Environment and Natural Resources Committee: Which side are you on? Can we rely on you to represent public interests, or will you serve private corporate interests?

On Wednesday morning, the committee will be accepting public input on Mark Dubois’ nomination to the Board of Environmental Protection; a full Senate vote will take place later in the session. This nomination is not an appointment but a disappointment that elevates distrust in government in a time we need to take action to restore our faith in it. Now we the public must reach out to our own state senators, as well as to the members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, and let them know we’re counting on them to do what’s right.

Nickie Sekera is a resident of Fryeburg and co-founder of the group Community Water Justice.

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