September 3, 2013

For regulators and Nestle Waters, conflict by the gallon

All three PUC commissioners and Maine's public advocate have ties to Poland Spring's parent company, which is seeking a 25-year contract.

By Colin Woodard
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 5)

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A Poland Spring truck heads south on Route 302. Fryeburg’s quality water is the result of quartz-rich geology and clean runoff.

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

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Fryeburg residents Bruce Taylor, left, an intervenor in the case, stands with contract opponents Cliff Hall and Nickie Sekera in front of the Poland Spring offices on Main Street in Fryeburg.

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Related headlines

Related Documents

Agreement between Nestle Waters and Fryeburg Water Co.
PUC recusal responses Oct 2012

"I get that it's a real issue, a tough issue," he said. "I will have to make a hard call."

In October, the chairman decided not to disqualify himself, in part because if he did the PUC would no longer have a quorum to act. "Consequently," he wrote at the time, "my participation is ... compelled by the so-called 'rule of necessity.' " He also wrote that he would not be biased by the personal relationships he had at Pierce Atwood.

Several people familiar with the PUC say they believe Welch has good intentions. "I think Chairman Welch appears to be a very reasoned jurist," said Taylor, whose attorney filed a second recusal motion last month. "But I am concerned about the appearance of conflict of interest and the transparency of process."

Sean Mahoney, executive vice president of the Conservation Law Foundation, which testified in support of Welch and Schneider at their respective confirmation hearings, said the Nestle case is indeed a conundrum for Welch.

"I personally think Tom is somebody of integrity, but a lot of people looking from the outside are going to say something doesn't smell right, and that's a problem," Mahoney said. "When you're in that position you have to be whiter than the driven snow, particularly in issues fraught with a lot of emotional and other baggage. So I think he is in a tough spot."

Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

This story was updated at 1:10 p.m. Sept. 3 to correct the order and number of past Maine public advocates. There have been five, in this order: Gordon Weil, Peter Bradford, Paul Fritzsche (previously with Pine Tree Legal Assistance), Stephen Ward and Richard Davies.



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Additional Photos

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Poland Spring water trucks fill up at the water pumping station at Fire Lane No. 4 along Route 113 in Fryeburg.

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Wards Pond off Route 113 in Fryeburg is part of an aquifer where Poland Spring water trucks fill up and travel through Fryeburg.


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