In an email accidentally sent to The Chronicle but apparently meant for the company’s president, Crystal Geyser Chief Operating Officer Page Beykpour said the company’s planned water bottling operation in Randle is likely “dead because the opposition has successfully convinced officials and the media against us.”
“I can tell you 100% in its current proposed nature, it will get rejected,” Beykpour wrote. “The County may even change the zoning to disallow our operations on the property. We are fortunate not to have been sued yet.”
The email sent to The Chronicle was addressed to “Ronan,” likely CG Roxane President Ronan Papillaud. Beykpour claimed, apparently intending to address his boss, that The Chronicle was “in bed with the opposition.” The message also outlines the company’s possible strategy for “long shot” options to try to salvage the project:
- Hire a public relations firm to gather “grassroots” support, a response to the overwhelming community opposition the project has already generated. Once the company mobilized enough people, Beykpour said, it could pressure government officials and the media to “change the conversation.”
- Sue a nearby subdivision for contaminating the aquifer. “Hopefully, this gets them to the table and they are prepared to have an open minded communication,” Beykpour wrote.
Beykpour added that either strategy was unlikely to succeed, calling them “super long shots, but from my perspective worth it. ... We will face the same all over Washington and Oregon. ... All we lose if we pursue this strategy is time and internal resources, and some minimal costs associated with the PR firm and filing a lawsuit. The biggest risk is negative PR from a lawsuit, but frankly, if substantiated we have something to rest on. Otherwise, I say we dump this site. Please let me know your thoughts.”
Crystal Geyser wants to build a 100,000-square-foot water bottling plant on its newly purchased Peters Road property along the Cowlitz River. The plant would extract 400 gallons a minute from springs on the site. At present, the company is in the permitting process with the Washington Department of Ecology and also needs a special use permit from Lewis County.
The project has drawn fierce opposition in the community. And Saturday, the Cowlitz Tribal Council voted unanimously to oppose the plant. More than 1,500 people belong to an opposition Facebook group known as the Lewis County Water Alliance.
“Now the public can see how they actually work and think,” said nearby resident Craig Jasmer, who has become the face of the opposition group. “They’re not honest guys.”
County Commissioner Edna Fund said she was “speechless” after hearing about the email.
“Wow. Is that just amazing,” she said. “It is so hard to believe that they would sue citizens and also try to fake people who are opposing the opposition. Oh my goodness.”
Fund added that Randle residents should take pride in making themselves heard.
“Those Randle folks, whether it’s the library or water, they’re on it,” she said. “They’re energized, they organize and do their research and ask good questions. Kudos to them for their community action.”
In a phone call with The Chronicle, Beykpour pleaded for the email not to be published, as it was intended to be a “confidential” internal communication about “strategy.”
Asked about potentially suing the neighbors, Beykpour responded: “We’re vetting that issue out. We’re vetting to see what damage their activities have potentially caused the aquifer.”
George Gigounas, an attorney with the billion-dollar multinational law firm DLA Piper, said in a voicemail to The Chronicle that he represents CG Roxane. He threatened the newspaper with legal action if this story is published.
“That document is attorney-client privileged and it is against the law for you to print it,” Gigounas said. “If you do print it, we will pursue all damages affordable by law. If you continue to threaten to print it, we will seek a temporary restraining order as quickly as possible to prevent you from doing that.”
That claim of attorney-client privilege does not hold up, said media law expert Michele Earl-Hubbard, president of the Allied Law Group, who explained that attorney-client privilege does not apply to the press.
“(Attorney-client privilege) is a lawyer thing. It’s not a reporter thing,” she said.