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Business press reporting is cheerleading for multinational corporation operating in Grand Rapids

September 29, 2011

Earlier this year we posted a story about the possibility that Grand Rapids might privatize its water system with the French company Veolia. This proposal did not come to fruition, but the energy and water management-company is back in the news in West Michigan.

MiBiz reported last week that Veolia plans to increase its operations in the Great Lakes area, while maintaining Grand Rapids as its “hub of operations.” “We want to create a platform for growth in the Great Lakes,” said Veolia’s Grand Rapids Manager Jim Monterusso. “For anything in the Great Lakes, we want it bolted onto Grand Rapids.”

According to the MiBiz article Veolia has already just opened a landfill gas-to-energy facility in Wisconsin that the company can monitor from their Grand Rapids office. The real goal of course with any for profit entity is growth, which Veolia’s Grand Rapids spokesperson makes clear when he says, “A lot of capacity is available for growth. We can serve a lot more customers than we do. The most sexy for us is the off-pipe projects on industrial or other properties in Grand Rapids and other nearby places, like Holland and Muskegon.”

While management always thinks growth is sexy, the reality is that Veolia is not a friend of local autonomy of human rights.

Veolia is one of the largest water privatization companies in the world and according to a report by Public Citizen, the company has an atrocious environmental record in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and right here in the US.

In addition to energy and water profiteering, Veolia has a division that works on transportation systems. One of those projects is in Israel and is called the Jerusalem Light Rail Project (JLR).

According to the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, the JLR project would, “link illegal settlements in East Jerusalem with Israel. Not only do the settlements contravene article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention forbidding an occupier transferring its own civilians into the territory it occupies, but in most cases the establishment of the Israeli settlements involved war crimes too. The tramway tightens Israel’s hold on occupied East Jerusalem, ties the settlements more firmly into Israel and undermines chances of a just peace for the Palestinian people.” In addition, Veolia operates bus lines for Israeli settlers, running them between illegal settlements and Israel.

The awful environmental practices and the lack of respect for human rights by Veolia are not mentioned in the article by MiBiz. Instead, the local business press seems to be cheerleading for the growth and expansion of a company that has little regard for environmental protection and basic human rights.

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