The Trump administration has put the kibosh on a six-year-old ban on selling bottled water at some national parks. The National Park Service announced on Wednesday that, effectively immediately, parks like the Grand Canyon will no longer be able to block the sale of plastic water bottles in a bid to reduce litter. In a statement, the National Park Service said it wanted to “expand hydration options for recreationalists, hikers, and other visitors to national parks.”
The decision serves as yet another rollback of one of President Barack Obama’s environmental policies. Since 2011, the Green Parks Plan has encouraged the use of refillable water bottles on park lands. While it didn’t prohibit the sale of bottled sweetened drinks, the policy allowed parks to prevent the sale of disposable water bottles in vending machines, stores, and hotels.
Besides the Grand Canyon, 22 of the 417 National Park Service sites implemented the policy, officials said. These included Bryce Canyon National Park, Mount Rushmore, and Zion National Park.
The rollback is a win for the bottled water and beverage industry, which campaigned against the ban, noting that the Obama administration “removed the healthiest beverage choice at a variety of parks while still allowing sales of bottled sweetened drinks.”
“Consumption of water in all forms, tap, filtered, and bottled, should always be encouraged,” said Jill Culora, a spokeswoman for the International Bottled Water Association, a trade group. “The rescinded policy was seriously flawed.”
The move by the National Parks comes three weeks after the Senate confirmation of David Bernhardt as deputy interior secretary. Bernhardt, according to the Washington Post, served as a lobbyist with the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which has represented Nestlé Water, one of the largest water bottlers in the United States and the distributor of the Deer Park brand.
Nestlé repudiates the Post’s implication, however.
“Claims by Corporate Accountability International that Nestlé Waters North America unduly influenced the National Park Service to rescind its ban on bottled water are categorically false. No one in the General Counsel’s office at Nestle Waters North America has ever met or spoken to Mr. Bernhardt, and frankly was not familiar with him until these irresponsible claims were made,” it said in a statement. “Moreover, Mr. Bernhardt has never worked on Nestle Waters North America matters while at Brownstein Hyatt. Brownstein Hyatt, for the last number of years, has mainly handled some employment law matters in Colorado for Nestlé Waters North America.”