Beer Brawl Ensues Over Threat to Shut Down Colorado Coal Mine

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Bars, liquor stores and restaurants in the small northwest coal mining town of Craig, Colorado have started boycotting craft beers made by Colorado microbreweries that have donated even tiny amounts of cash or in-kind gifts to environmental and sustainability causes.

 
The boycott started after a Craig bar owner found out that New Belgium Ales, Breckenridge Brewery and other Colorado-based breweries had donated money to WildEarth Guardians, the environmental group that successfully sued the Colowyo Coal Mine and Trapper Mining, Inc., over an inadequate environmental impact assessment the mines submitted to the government in their effort to gain approval to expand the local coal mine.
 
A federal court ruled in favor of WildEarth Guardians and gave the mining companies an ultimatum: re-do the environmental impact assessment correctly within 120 days or risk being shut down. The mines employ about 220 people in tiny Craig, which has a total population of just under 9,000. 
 
Some Colorado-based breweries have become more political in recent years by supporting efforts to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act (CWA) that threaten water quality in the state. For example, fracking is known to contaminate groundwater and is only allowed because of “The Halliburton Loophole,” which specifically exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Water makes up 90-95 percent of beer, giving beer makers a stake in safeguarding access to clean water supplies. 

 
New Belgium spokesman Bryan Simpson told the Colorado Independent that his company only gave money to WildEarth Guardians for projects aimed specifically at protecting watersheds. He said he was unaware of the group’s lawsuit against the coal companies. New Belgium gave about $10,000 to WildEarth Guardians between 2008 and 2014.
 
Other breweries Craig business owners are targeting have donated far less towards environmental causes. Craig businesses yanked beer made by Ska Brewing in Durango, Colorado, because Ska donated a $25 gift certificate to a 2014 WildEarth Guardians event in support of banning coyote and pigeon hunts, also known as “killing contests.”
 
Breckenridge Brewery beer was pulled because an employee with a Breckenridge-affiliated restaurant donated a $30 gift card to a 2011 WildEarth Guardians fundraising event. Twisted Pine Brewing in Boulder was targeted for donating a gift basket to WildEarth Guardians that contained a T-shirt and a growler of beer. 
 
The boycott effort has also spread beyond beer. The boycott effort has shrunk WildEarth Guardians list of business supporters from 605 to 151, according to the Craig Daily Press.

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