Dec 6 - Update: Did Coke Influence Reversal on Bottle Ban? Emails Reveal Sponsorship Concerns

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Amidst protests from National Park Service (NPS) officials that a bottled water ban in the Grand Canyon was not rescinded due to concerns from Coca Cola (a major NPS funder and bottled water distributor), emails have been released that indicate otherwise.

When the story first broke in early November of this year, NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis issued a statement that the decision

"was not influenced by Coke, but rather the service-wide implications to our concessions contracts, and frankly the concern for public safety in a desert park."

However, the Grand Canyon National Park had already installed $300,000 worth of water refilling stations, modeled after a successful Zion National Park ban, before the ban was stalled.

The saga continues with emails showing NPS apprehension about potential backlash from Coke. Through email exchanges obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request, it was revealed that Jarvis worried in November 2010,

"While I applaud the intent, there are going to be consequences, since Coke is a major sponsor of our recycling efforts."

Neil Mulholland, President and CEO of the NPS Foundation which handles the financial contributions, noted in a prior email to Jarvis that he had received

"strong negative feedback from the beverage industry regarding a potential ban on disposable water bottles in the Grand Canyon and other national parks."

The ban was expected to go into effect in January 2011, but was pulled in mid December 2010.

This decision could now impact other NPS parks and their proposed bottled water bans. An email sent on January 11, 2011 to NPS regional officials invited them to a meeting with bottled water representatives and noted:

"A number of concessioners and bottled water suppliers have expressed concern over this initiative. The Director has asked that we host a meeting with the water bottlers ... (and) also asked that no NEW initiatives be implemented until a Service-wide position is developed on this issue (e.g., no new water bottle bans!)".

NPS emails and correspondence notes are available here and here. Read more on MSNBC and in the New York Times.

You can also read our original blog on the story and sign the petition to bring back the bottled water ban in the Grand Canyon on our website.