Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Veolia Action in St. Louis

Press release from our member group St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee


January 16, 2013


Anna Baltzer, St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee,
Kat Logan Smith, Missouri Coalition of the Environment,

Residents to Pack City Board Meeting in Protest of Water Contract with Veolia, Renowned for Shoddy Environmental, Human Rights, Labor Practices

St. Louis, Missouri -- St. Louis Dump Veolia, a diverse coalition of environmental, labor, and human rights activists, is calling on the city’s Board of Estimate & Apportionment (E&A) to vote down a proposed contract with Veolia Water to guide cost-cutting for the St. Louis Water Division. The coalition is deeply troubled by the company’s record of irresponsible environmental practices, human rights violations, mismanagement, anti-labor practices, corruption, bribery, embezzlement, fraud, and failure to make good on promised improvements.
The Board, comprised of Mayor Francis Slay, Comptroller Darlene Green, and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, will meet Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 2pm in the Room 200 of City Hall to consider contracts. At its December meeting, following public outcry, the Board voted to shelve the contract, calling for an investigation into Veolia by a selection committee chaired by the Mayor’s office. The contract was put back on last Friday, later than is usual. The coalition mobilized heavily to stop it and at the time of this press release, the contract had been removed from the agenda.

The contract can be reintroduced at any time. Concerned residents plan to pack the meeting, which is open to the press and the public.

According to one member of the City’s committee tasked with researching Veolia, the group has not been convened. Several local organizations including the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, and St. Louis Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as individual city residents, have filed requests under the Sunshine Act for records and results of any such investigation.

“If Veolia performs consistently with its own record, our pocketbooks will not be safe, our drinking water will not be healthy, and our environment will not be protected,” said Kathleen Logan Smith, Executive Director of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. “St. Louis should dump Veolia now.”

“Veolia offers its services under the guise of “cutting costs” and providing “efficiency”.  However, we see in town after town, cutting costs means cutting jobs or eliminating pensions.  Almost all studies show that one of the biggest sources of job creation is to invest in public infrastructure.  St. Louis City needs to keep our public works in the hands of the public, NOT a private overseas corporation” said Arielle Klagsbrun of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment

Sandra Tamari of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee explained: “My family lives in the occupied West Bank, where Israel has implemented a system of segregated roads and buses, some of which Veolia operates. If we tried to board these buses, we would be forced off simply because of our ethnicity and religion. If St. Louis stands against segregation in the U.S., it should not support corporations profiting from segregation elsewhere.”

“The city has serious water infrastructure needs but we question the value of this costly consulting contract with a company that has such a questionable record, “said Caroline Pufalt, Sierra Club Conservation Chair.

Veolia’s illegal activities in Israel/Palestine and other notorious practices have made it the target of corporate accountability campaigns worldwide. The company has lost an estimated $16 billion to date in cancelled or withdrawn contracts following advocacy. Parent company Veolia’s hometown Paris, France chose not to renew its contract with the company.

In 2007, Mayor Slay received a trophy and award check for $15,000 from the President of Veolia Water.