On Thursday, a group of 59 brewers from across the United States sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in opposition to sweeping changes to the Clean Water Act proposed by the Trump administration.
That letter, signed by heavyweights from Brooklyn Brewery, Sierra Nevada, and Allagash, as well as smaller outfits, rightly points out, “Beer is mostly water, so the quality of our source water significantly affects our finished product.”
Dubbed the “Dirty Water Rule” by environmental advocacy groups, the proposed changes would “end decades of protection for several different kinds of water bodies, namely rain-dependent streams, wetlands without specified surface water connections to other waterways, certain ponds, and interstate waters,” according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The new rule would roll back an Obama-era regulation called the Clean Water Rule (a.k.a. The Waters of the United States Rule), which broadened the authority of the Clean Water Act to protect small streams and wetlands.
The Clean Water Act, passed in 1972, was designed to protect the nation’s waters and wetlands, which by the late 1960s were already becoming severely polluted with sewage and industrial waste. Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River famously caught fire in 1969, spurring lawmakers to action.
The move by the Trump administration would end what critics of the 2015 Clean Water Rule have viewed as “a federal land grab that impinged on the rights of farmers, rural landowners and real estate developers to use their property as they see fit,” according to the New York Times.
In their letter, the brewers note that the small streams and wetlands protected by the Clean Water Rule are critical to the nation’s waters as a whole: “Importantly, that rule was based on sound science. The record showed that the waters it protected had biological, chemical, and physical connections to larger downstream waterways.”
The brewers add, “This proposed rule, to the contrary, ignores the overwhelming scientific evidence that protecting small streams and wetlands is essential to ensuring the quality of America’s water sources.”
Of course, clean water isn’t just a key component of a good beer—it’s also crucial to the economic health of the beer industry. “We need reliable sources of clean water to consistently produce the great beer that is key to our success. It is thanks in part to this important natural resource that the craft brewing industry contributes about $76.2 billion to the U.S. economy each year, along with more than 500,000 jobs,” write the brewers.
“We strongly oppose these proposed changes, which would affect millions of miles of streams and most of the nation’s wetlands. Science shows that protecting these waters is important to downstream water quality. We must maintain clear protections for the vulnerable waterways that provide our most important ingredient.”
Read the letter in its entirety here.
Top photo courtesy of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.