Brewers Oppose Weakening Coal Plant Water Pollution Limits

Today, 48 craft breweries around the country submitted a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency opposing the agency's proposal to weaken water pollution safeguards for coal-burning power plants.

Power plant wastewater discharges are the largest source of toxic water pollution in the United States. This wastewater contains harmful substances like mercury, arsenic, lead, and selenium that can cause cancer, neurological damage, and other serious health problems.

Many power plants discharge this waste into waterways that are used as sources of drinking water. Over the past century, coal plant wastewater discharges have contaminated 23,000 miles of rivers and streams across the country, including 4,000 miles that are now no longer safe to use as a source of drinking water. There have also been documented cases of power plant discharges contaminating communities’ drinking water supplies with arsenic and bromide.

Until recently, the national pollution standards for power plant wastewater discharges hadn’t been updated since 1982. These outdated standards didn’t include any limits on toxic metals and allowed coal plants to cause significant environmental damage.

In 2015, the EPA finally took action to update the standards. The agency adopted a rule setting the first-ever national pollutant limits on the amount of heavy metals and other chemicals that power plants can discharge into waterways. These new limits were designed to be affordable to implement while reducing 1.4 billion pounds of toxic pollution every year. The standards went into effect in 2016, and power plants started to upgrade their technology to meet the new standards.

Now the current administration is proposing to weaken the standards for the largest and most toxic power plant wastewater streams addressed in the 2015 rule. These proposed changes would threaten drinking water sources around the country, including the water that many breweries use to brew beer.

The brewers that signed the letter are partners in NRDC’s Brewers for Clean Water campaign. The full text of their letter is below, and members of the public can weigh in with EPA here.


Dear Administrator Wheeler:

We oppose your proposal to weaken national water pollution standards for coal-burning power plants. This rule would endanger the water sources that many craft breweries depend on to produce high-quality beer.

Beer is mostly water, a resource that our businesses care about deeply. The quality of our source water significantly affects our finished product. Compounds present in brewing water can affect pH, aroma, and taste. Trace quantities of metals can affect the metabolism of yeast and the physical properties of beer, including its color and stability. Even small chemical disruptions in our water supply could influence the quality of our brews.

For breweries that depend on surface water, unexpected changes in water quality due to pollution can affect the brewing process and our bottom line. 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 $79.1 billion to the U.S. economy each year, along with more than 550,000 jobs.

EPA’s proposal to allow power plants to discharge greater amounts of toxic substances into waterways could threaten the most important ingredient for breweries as well as other industries that rely on clean, safe sources of water. Coal-burning power plants are by far the largest source of toxic water pollution in the United States, including heavy metals like arsenic, mercury, selenium, and lead. These pollutants can be dangerous for human health and must be controlled to keep our water safe for drinking and brewing.

Coal plant water pollution has already made 4,000 miles of rivers in the U.S. unsafe for use as a drinking water source. Limits on this pollution need to be made more protective, not less, and it makes no sense to roll back the stronger standards that were established in 2015. We need to keep source waters clean to protect public health and ensure sustainable water supplies for industries like ours.

We ask you not to weaken power plant toxic water pollution limits. Protecting clean water is central to our long-term business success. Moreover, it is vital to the health and the economy of the communities where we live and work.

Thank you for considering our views on this important matter.

Sincerely,

Allagash Brewing Company (Portland, ME)

Alliance Brewing Company (Knoxville, TN)

Bang Brewing (St. Paul, MN)

Baxter Brewing Co. (Lewiston, ME)

Bent Paddle Brewing Co. (Duluth, MN)

Big Grove Brewery (Iowa City, IA)

Blue Point Brewing Company (Patchogue, NY)

BrewDog Brewing Company (Columbus, OH)

Brewery 85 (Greenville, SC)

Brewery Techne (Philadelphia, PA)

Brewery Vivant (Grand Rapids, MI)

BREWSKI Beers (Chattanooga, TN)

Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn, NY)

Cahaba Brewing Company (Birmingham, AL)

Earth Bread + Brewery (Philadelphia, PA)

Eastern Market Brewing Co. (Detroit, MI)

Engrained Brewery & Restaurant (Springfield, IL)

Fibonacci Brewing Company (Cincinnati, OH)

Fiddlin’ Fish Brewing Company (Winston-Salem, NC)

Flossmoor Station Brewing Company (Flossmoor, IL)

Flying Fish Brewing Co. (Somerdale, NJ)

Fremont Brewing (Seattle, WA)

Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland, OH)

Greenstar Organic Brewing (Chicago, IL)

Half Acre Beer Company (Chicago, IL)

Hops & Grain Brewing (Austin, TX)

Horse & Dragon Brewing Company (Fort Collins, CO)

Lakefront Brewery (Milwaukee, WI)

Lost Rhino Brewing Company (Ashburn, VA)

Maine Beer Company (Freeport, ME)

Maui Brewing Company (Kihei, HI)

Mill River Brewing (St. Albans City, VT)

MotoSonora Brewing Co. (Tucson, AZ)

Naked River Brewing Company (Chattanooga, TN)

Old Bust Head Brewing Company (Warrenton, VA)

One World Brewing (Asheville, NC)

Orono Brewing Company (Orono, ME)

Port City Brewing Company (Alexandria, VA)

Rising Tide Brewing Company (Portland, ME)

Rolling Meadows Farm Brewery (Cantrall, IL)

Saltwater Brewery (Delray Beach, FL)

Sedona Beer Company (Sedona, AZ)

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Chico, CA)

SweetWater Brewing Company (Atlanta, GA)

Temperance Beer Co. (Evanston, IL)

Wild Onion Brewery (Lake Barrington, IL)

Wolf Hills Brewing Company (Abingdon, VA)

Zed’s Beer (Marlton, NJ)

About the Authors

Becky Hammer

Deputy Director, Federal Water Policy; Senior Attorney, Nature Program

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