Fat Tire brewery pours out praise for EPA rule

The brewery that makes the Fat Tire brand of beer supports the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) effort to redefine which bodies of water are under its jurisdiction, a proposal that opponents have labeled a “land grab.”

“We depend on clean water for our success,” Andrew Lemley, a government affairs representative for the New Belgium Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, Colo., said at a Tuesday hearing. “Beer is, after all, at least 90 percent water.”

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Lemley told the lawmakers in the House Natural Resources Committee’s subpanel on water and power that the March proposal from the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers would help ensure that water resources are properly protected and that beer breweries can operate.

“This action by the EPA gives us the confidence that our growing brewery needs,” Lemley said. “We will continue to grow if we can count on clean water, which is essential to brewing our beers and being a prosperous business.”

The EPA’s “Waters of the United States” proposal has faced a bipartisan backlash from lawmakers who fear that it would lead to federal oversight of backyards, puddles, farming ditches and dry creek beds. They charge that it could require private landowners and farmers to apply for expensive permits to build fences or ditches, drain decorative ponds or take other common actions.

“The EPA threatens ... through executive fiat to increase its jurisdiction over nearly all water in the United States,” Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), the subcommittee’s chairman, said at the hearing.

“By this act, the EPA seeks to control nearly everybody of water in the United States, including many agricultural and drainage ditches, ornamental lakes, conduits for use in water recycling and small creeks and streams, including those that exist only during heavy run-offs,” he said.

McClintock vowed to fight the rule through both traditional legislative means and congressional appropriations.

Lawmakers heard from representatives of the National Water Resources Association, Wyoming’s state engineer, the Utah Farm Bureau Federation and the Associated Electrical Cooperative Inc.

Except for Lemley, all the witnesses opposed the rule and said it would lead to unprecedented federal bureaucracy.

But Lemley urged the lawmakers to support the efforts from the EPA and Army Corps.

“Clarity in regulation and the protection of natural resources are keys to economic development,” Lemley said. “We believe that the administration’s clean water rule would restore clear national protections against unregulated pollution and destruction for nearly 2 million miles of streams and tens of millions of acres of wetlands in the continental U.S.”