December 17, 2009
Contact: Julie Anderson, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-2500
New Jersey Appellate Court Rules Against Public Referendum Regarding Water Utility Sale in Trenton
Statement by Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Washington, D.C. –“Today, the Appellate Division for the New Jersey Superior Court ruled against citizens of Trenton who were pressing for a referendum to determine the fate of the Trenton water system. This ruling essentially denies the citizens of Trenton the right to vote on the $100 million sale of a portion of the city’s water utility to the private corporation American Water and undermines fundamental principles in state law guaranteeing citizen participation in ensuring that water resources are economically and prudently managed.
“The ruling undermined the importance of the ‘Public Trust Doctrine,’ a foundation of New Jersey water law that rests ultimate ownership of drinking water in the hands of the people. Furthermore, the decision failed to recognize the right of citizens in Trenton and elsewhere to vote on large municipal water utility sales in the future. By weakening the avenues for public participation, this decision ultimately strengthens the ability of private companies like American Water to buy water systems in cities like Trenton despite public objection.
“Food & Water Watch, which filed an ‘amicus curiae’ or ‘friend of the court’ brief in support of a citizen’s movement in Trenton, is very disappointed that the Appellate Court chose to overlook key portions of state law. Food & Water Watch will continue to help the citizens of Trenton and the surrounding townships as they continue to fight this sale and believe the New Jersey Supreme Court would be very interested in scrutinizing this decision should the citizens’ group choose to continue pursuing its legal challenge of this sale.”
Food & Water Watch is a non-profit organization working with grassroots organizations around the world to create an economically and environmentally viable future. Through research, public and policymaker education, media, and lobbying, we advocate policies that guarantee safe, wholesome food produced in a humane and sustainable manner and public, rather than private, control of water resources including oceans, rivers, and groundwater. For more information, visit http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org