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Another View -- Peter Egleston: As a local craft brewer, I support the EPA's new Clean Water Rule

June 18. 2015 10:21PM

ON MAY 27, the EPA finalized the Clean Water Rule, which puts an end to more than a decade of confusion about which rivers, streams and wetlands are covered by the Clean Water Act, one of our nation’s fundamental environmental laws, passed in 1972 during a Republican administration, at a time when such efforts received clear bipartisan support.

The Clean Water Rule is good news for both brewers and the communities we serve. Beer, after all, is more than 90 percent water, and if our source of water is at risk, so is our business.

New Hampshire’s breweries contribute millions of dollars to our state’s economy and support thousands of jobs, and all of us are dependent on a clean, reliable water supply. Nationally, there are more than 3,400 craft breweries directly employing 108,000 people. These are good jobs at growing, locally owned companies, jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. Responsible regulations that limit pollution and protect water at its source are critical for our industry’s stability and growth.

The Clean Water Rule helps both communities as well as growing businesses like ours, restoring clear safeguards 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. Bringing these streams and wetlands under the umbrella of the Clean Water Act will help protect the drinking water for 117 million people, including in New Hampshire, where nearly two out of five New Hampshire residents get their drinking water from small streams and wetlands that aren’t clearly protected today.

The Clean Water Rule will also benefit sport fishing and outdoor recreation, both of which are important businesses in New Hampshire.

More than 1 million Americans submitted comments on the draft rule, with an estimated 87 percent in support. They included craft brewers, sportsmen, small-business owners, religious leaders, public health advocates and environmental organizations.

Despite that support, the rule’s development has been contentious, especially from some agricultural producers, who worry about how the rule may affect their operations. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy assured agricultural producers that the rule would not change the exemptions and exclusions they’ve enjoyed since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972. She also told them that their comments would be reflected in the final rule.

She kept her word. And that’s important to us, because while beer may be mostly water, our agricultural partners provide the raw materials — malted barley and hops — we depend on to make our beer.

At Smuttynose and the Portsmouth Brewery, we take brewing beer and protecting our natural world seriously, not just for the health of our business, but for the health of our community. Protecting our natural resources, minimizing our impact and being a good neighbor are all part of what we strive to do every day. The Clean Water Rule will make it easier for us to do all three.

Peter Egleston is president of Smuttynose Brewing Co. and Portsmouth Brewery.

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