Testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Tuesday, Andrew Lemley, government affairs representative for New Belgium Brewing Company, voiced strong support for the EPA’s proposed Waters of the United States rule.
“Our brewery and our communities depend on clean water,” Lemley said. “Beer is, after all, over 90 percent water and if something happens to our source water the negative affect on our business is almost unthinkable.”
New Belgium Brewing Company — makers of Fat Tire beer — is based in Fort Collins, Colorado, with a second operation based in North Carolina. All Colorado breweries generated $249 million in revenue last year, Lemley said, creating over 5,000 jobs — jobs which, according to Lemley, depend on clean water sources.
“We all rely on responsible regulations that limit pollution and protect water at its source,” Lemley said. “Over the past 23 years we’ve learned that when smart regulation and clean water exists for all, business thrives.”
The proposed EPA rule would clarify what streams, tributaries, and wetlands can be protected under the Clean Water Act. Supporters of the proposed regulation say that it would provide support for the third of Americans whose drinking water currently comes from upstream sources not protected under the Clean Water Act, while opponents say the regulations would be overreach on the part of the EPA.
A 2014 poll conducted by the American Sustainable Business Council found that 80 percent of small business owners support federal rules for protecting upstream headwaters as proposed by the EPA, with 71 percent saying that clean water is crucial to support economic growth.
Lemley mirrored that sentiment before the committee on Tuesday, calling access to clean water a “key to economic development” for the craft brewing industry.
This isn’t the first time that New Belgium Brewing Company has voiced support for the proposed rules. In June of 2014, Lemley testified before the House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans in favor of the regulations, saying then that “making world class beer, being profitable and honoring the environment for [New Belgium] go hand in hand.”
New Belgium is just one of dozens of craft brewers that have rallied behind the EPA’s proposed regulations: Allagash Brewing Company, Brooklyn Brewery, Goose Island Beer Company, and Sierra Nevada are some of the 45 breweries that have joined the “Brewers For Clean Water Campaign”, led by Natural Resources Defense Council, in a show of support for clean water regulations.
“Beer is about 90 percent water, making local water supply quality and its characteristics, such as pH and mineral content, critical to brewing,” 32 breweries involved with the campaign wrote in a 2014 letter to the EPA. “Changes to our water supply — whether we draw directly from a water source or from a municipal supply — threaten our ability to consistently produce our great-tasting beer and thus, our bottom line.”
In March, U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke about the Clean Water Rule at the annual Craft Brewers Association Conference. “Clean water matters not just to better lives — but to better beer, and better business,” McCarthy said. “That’s why EPA matters. Our job is to protect water.”
An earlier version of this story said that New Belgium contributed $249 in revenue and 5,000 jobs for Colorado in 2013 — that number is actually for all breweries in the state.