Updated: McDonnell denies lifting state ban on bottled water at the behest of the industry
Update, 4:20 p.m.: McDonnell spokeswoman Stacey Johnson denied the allegations by Corporate Accountability International.
The governor's "decision to reverse a ban on bottled water gives agencies the flexibility to meet their needs in this tough budget cycle in the most practical and cost-effective manner possible,'' Johnson said. "It also eliminates a mandate that targets an important job-creating Virginia industry and the tax revenue to the commonwealth that the industry provides."
Johnson said the same executive order that eliminated the ban also directed that state agencies recycle, and provide containers so that their employees can recycle. "We trust and expect that state agencies and employees will be responsible stewards of the environment by, among other things, recycling the plastic water bottles they may use," she said.
Original post: Gov. Bob McDonnell's decision to reverse his predecessor's ban on the state's purchase of individual-sized bottled water is coming under fire from those who claim that he might have made the decision at the request of his friends in the industry.
Former Republican delegate Chris Saxman, board member of the International Bottled Water Association and employee of Shenandoah Valley Water Co., a major water bottler in Virginia, has served as an education adviser to McDonnell.
Corporate Accountability International, a Boston-based nonprofit organization which promotes strong public water systems, among other issues, alleges that Saxman's company is the single largest recipient of state money spent on bottled water, including more than $101,000 in fiscal 2009.
"McDonnell ran on a campaign platform that promised common-sense steps to curb state spending and protect the environment,'' said Leslie Samuelrich, chief of staff at Corporate Accountability International. "His actions today seem to suggest he is more interested in protecting cushy state contracts for the bottled water industry than protecting the environment or prioritizing state funding for vital public services."
But Saxman said Tuesday that his company primarily sells five-gallon containers of water, not individual water bottles. He also said that he did not speak to McDonnell or anyone in his administration about the decision. "That's completely inaccurate,'' he said. "I didn't talk to anyone in this administration. It would be inappropriate.''
Former governor Tim Kaine (D) banned the water bottles, except in emergencies or health reasons, as part of an overall conservation plan.
Virginia was among a handful of states, including Illinois, New York and Colorado, to cut bottled water from their budget. Corporate Accountability, which receives its funding from individuals and foundations, was working those states.
In fiscal 2009, the state spent at least $158,000 on bottled water. The following year, the state spent about $126,000.
McDonnell has convened a commission to study ways to cut state spending, including closing some of the state's 130 agencies, putting more forms online, eliminating annual reports and selling the state's 332 liquor stores.
Stacey Johnson, a McDonnell spokeswoman, did not immediately return a call for comment.
July 13, 2010; 4:48 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell , Timothy M. Kaine
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