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Enron & Privitzing US Water Supplies

I thought the listservice might be interested in developments to privitize public drinking water supplies in Florida.
Do you know of other examples in other states?
Donald Sutherland
Member of the Society of Environmental Journalists
Perspective | Naples Daily News

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Editorial: Enron subsidiary

Azurix's failed attempt at Florida's water rights sends warning message

Sunday, March 24, 2002

The Naples Daily News

Little did most of us know that when Enron collapsed, it was due in large measure to an ill-fated campaign for control of Florida's drinking water.

The name of the Enron water subsidiary is Azurix.

Thanks to Florida's open records laws and investigative reporters, we see how close our state in general and Southwest Florida in particular came to being ensnared beyond our friends and neighbors losing their Enron investments.

Stories originated by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and republished by this newspaper last Sunday show how Azurix lost nearly $1 billion trying to win long-term leases to withdraw water from the ground and relax state laws on aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) wells for stormwater runoff and treated sewage effluent. Azurix even offered to help pay for Everglades restoration, in hopes of repayment from the $8 billion state and federal commitment to the project, in return for the exclusive rights to sell the project's newly protected resource.

Azurix hired key lobbyists. They include at least one former board member of the South Florida Water Management District — James Garner of Fort Myers, who tried in vain to win Lee County's water utilities contract for Azurix — and at least one former district executive director, John Wodraska. The water district includes Collier and Lee counties.

Azurix enjoyed enthusiastic support from David Struhs, Gov. Jeb Bush's chief of the Department of Environmental Protection. Struhs, who worked with Enron CEO Kenneth Lay in the administration of President George W. Bush's father, championed water privatization at a Florida Chamber of Commerce seminar on Marco Island in July 2000.

In hindsight, comments made by Struhs, Garner and Wodraska at that meeting are ominous:

Struhs: "Start with the idea water is a public resource.

Given that, can we still harness the power of the marketplace? I believe the answer is yes."

Wodraska: "There are going to be major capital expenditures, so bring in efficient private enterprise."

Garner: "It's probably the most efficient way to solve the problems looming on the way and do it without bankrupting the public coffers."

Further, Struhs made a special trip to Naples as late as last spring to lobby this newspaper on ASR-friendly legislation. Shortly thereafter, about the same time Enron started to collapse, his support for ASR dissipated, citing environmental concerns.

The ties between Gov. Bush — whose brother's Pentagon employs at least one ex-Enron executive, who is building a home in Naples — and Struhs and Enron are striking. Yet, instead of prompting calls for investigations, the Florida Azurix story struggles for a groundwork of public awareness.

Two points register sharply:

n Water must be kept as public property in the public sector. Though that means management by a huge, non- elected bureaucracy, it is easier to track than if it were in private hands, where the potential for exploitation is boundless even by Enron standards.

n Though Enron and Azurix failed, someone else is likely to try to get the privatization job done. The money and power at stake are irresistible. We have to be on the alert for ourselves, because our state regulators were on the wrong side, that of the manipulators, the first time around.

From now on when water and ASR and long-term leases are brought up, watchdogs will perk up.