EDITORIAL: With Email Slip, Crystal Geyser Shows its True Face
If Crystal Geyser's plans to plant its next bottling facility in Randle weren't "dead" last Thursday when company Chief Operating Officer Page Beykpour mistakenly sent an email meant for his boss to The Chronicle, they probably are now, and from what we can see, it's for the best. We don't say that because we're against jobs or growth in our communities, or because we're "in bed with the opposition," as Beykpour wrote. We say that because Crystal Geyser clearly does not have Lewis County's best interests at heart, and the company spelled that out in clear language in an unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) misdirected email.
To recap, Crystal Geyser, a massive water bottling company that prides itself on bottling at the source -- rather than using treated municipal water supplies like most water bottling companies -- purchased property on Peters Road in Randle with the intent of building a 100,000-square-foot plant capable of extracting 400 gallons of water a minute from springs feeding the Cowlitz River. Residents leapt into action out of fear for their pristine rural homes. The Cowlitz Tribe soon followed, voting recently to oppose the operation due to its threat to salmon and river health. Lewis County commissioners have also expressed concern, and most recently, the nonprofit Columbia Riverkeeper voted to oppose the proposal.
The Chronicle has covered the issue from the beginning, not creating an issue out of thin air, as Beykpour has argued, but accurately portraying what we witness in the communities we cover. When 300 people show up to a town hall in Randle, we know it's a big issue. When 1,500 people join a Facebook group in days, it's not a fluke. After asking the newsroom to write an article focusing only on examples provided by Crystal Geyser of it's "community involvement" in other locations, while ignoring opposition groups in those areas, Beykpour penned an email to "Ronan," likely CG Roxane President Ronan Papillaud. We're not sure exactly what happened, but we've all been there. He pressed send while reporter Alex Brown's email was still in the address line. Realizing his mistake, Beykpour immediately called Brown pleading for him to disregard the email. When his request didn't work, he and an attorney threatened The Chronicle with a lawsuit.
After seeking the advice of a media attorney, we published the email online that afternoon. Again, the decision wasn't made because we don't like Crystal Geyser, or because we're mean spirited, or because we're against business. We published the email because it's our job. Lewis County residents deserve to know the truth and see firsthand the business practices the email exposes. We have a long record of standing up for our readers' right to know, and we aren't standing down any time soon.
Beykpour laid out two strategies to his employer. Neither involved being up-front and candid with residents. Neither involved attempting to address their concerns in good faith. The first was an "astroturf" campaign, in which Crystal Geyser would hire a public relations firm to drum up apparently "grassroots" support and "change the conversation." The second was to file lawsuits against residents to force their hands. "All of the above are super long shots, but from my perspective worth it. We will face the same all over Washington and Oregon, unless we find the unicorn site," Beykpour wrote.
An old truism comes to mind, and while we hate cliches, it bears repeating. If you run into trouble in one place, you ran into trouble once. If you run into trouble everywhere you go, maybe you're the problem.