Judge Voids Privatization of Stockton's Water/Sewer System
July 18, 2007
Marking a victory for the people of Stockton, on July 18, 2007 the Stockton city council decided unanimously to regain control of the city’s water systems. By a vote of five to zero, the city council agreed to end their appeal and abide by the San Joaquin County Superior Court's decision to end the water and sewer services contract. The $600 million, twenty year contract with the giant OMI-Thames, was the largest water contract of its kind west of the Mississippi.
"Water management is too important to be left in the hands of private companies who answer to shareholders and not to the people whose water they control," said Dale Stocking, Conservation Chair of the Delta/Sierra Group of the Sierra Club. "After seven years of fighting for local control of water, it is great to see such a victory for the people of Stockton, and we hope it will serve as an example and inspiration for communities across the country."
Read the full Sierra Club press release here!
November 12, 2006
Americans deserve water that is a clean and healthy public resource. On November 3, 2006 Judge Elizabeth Humphreys of the San Joaquin County Superior court ruled to keep the city of Stockton’s water out of private hands and free from pollution. Judge Humphreys sided with the Sierra Club, Concerned Citizens Coalition of Stockton, and the League of Women Voters of San Joaquin County, represented by the San Francisco-based law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, to overturn the 2003 water privatization contract that the city entered into with Denver-based Operations Management International, Inc & Thames Water. The effect of the contract was to hand over control of a local California water system to a global coalition of corporations (Thames Water was recently purchased by a group of Australian investors from RWE, a German Energy Corporation). Under the $600-million contract, the city turned over virtually every aspect of the municipal water, wastewater and stormwater utilities for a period of 20 years.
Despite the evidence of significant environmental harm that could result from the project, the city did no environmental review prior to approving the contract. In her ruling, Judge Humphrey's vindicated the Club’s position in stating that the court "review[ed] the entire history of this litigation . . . and determined that the Petition is correct and the requirements of CEQA [the California Environmental Quality Act] have not been met." In particular, the court found that "[t]here is substantial evidence in the administrative record to demonstrate that transfer of the city's water utility operations for 20 years will have significant environmental impacts." As a result of this ruling, municipal operations and management of Stockton’s water can go back into public hands within 180 days.
This project, the largest water privatization contract on the West Coast, was featured in the highly acclaimed documentary film "Thirst". Focusing on water privitization projects in Bolivia, India and in Stockton this film explores the question of whether "water is a human right or a commodity to be bought and sold in a global marketplace." Sierra Club Chapter Chair Dale Stocking, a leader in keeping Stockton's water in public hands, was featured in the film.
Learn more or to obtain a copy of this influential film.
May 1, 2003
The privatization of public water supplies has become a hot-button controversy in many communities around the country, as local governments are beginning to abdicate their roles as drinking-water providers to outside corporate business interests. The Club has begun to lead the charge in court against this trend. In central California local Club activists have joined a strong alliance of environmentalists, consumer advocates, labor unions, and others in successfully blocking the City of Stockton from handing its water system over to a multinational company.
Details and Documents:
Stockton's Thirst Gets Quenched
July 30, 2007 Editorial San Francisco Chronicle
Water bout is win for the peopleRuling has environmentalists declaring victory over Stockton water, sewage
July 22, 2007 by Michael Fitzgerald Stockton Record
November 7, 2006 by David Siders Stockton Record
Judge: Stockton Utility Privatization Illegal
November 8, 2006 by AP KCRA News
Judge Humphreys Ruling in Stockton Case
November 3, 2006, Superior Court of California, County of San Joaquin
Press Release: Judge Rejects Stockton Water Privatization Project
November 6, 2006
See other "Safeguarding Communities" cases.