Beer makes way into local coal issue

RBC I As the controversy over the future of the ColoWyo Coal Mine heats up, an unlikely commodity has been pulled into the debate—beer.

New Belgium Brewery, a Colorado-owned craft beer company based in Fort Collins, has provided financial support to WildEarth Guardians, the environmental group challenging the mine.
Last week, New Belgium released a statement saying, “At New Belgium Brewing, we support non-profit partners who advocate for healthy watersheds. Wild Earth Guardians first contacted New Belgium in 2008 seeking grant money for restoration projects along the Colorado River. We supported these efforts because Colorado businesses, residents and the environment are dependent upon sound water management. Specific to any work Wild Earth Guardians has done regarding the ColoWyo and Trapper mines, we were unaware of it at the time and that is outside the scope of our grant allocations. We have no further funding pending at this time.”
The press release specifies the WildEarth Guardian projects that New Belgium provided funding for, including a 2011 donation for education and engagement on the Clean Water Act, another controversial policy for many Westerners.
Several liquor stores and bars in the Craig area have since pulled their stock of New Belgium beers, including the popular Fat Tire.
Rangely Liquor, owned by Jon and Erin Willis, is following suit.
“Due to the support of New Belgium and Breckenridge Brewery to Wild Earth Guardians, we will not be supporting these brands in our liquor store at this time,” Willis said. “We support our community and the communities around us that rely on work in coal mines and in the oilfield.
“Without these industries and employees, our communities would not exist,” Willis said. “Hopefully these breweries will take a minute to evaluate their support of this group and find a resolution or compromise to the situation.”
White River Liquor in Meeker has also pulled New Belgium products.
“If we don’t have a coal mine the businesses in town will go to hell,” said Janice Wilson, owner of the liquor store. “I just pray they can keep [the mine] open.”
Other notable area businesses that are listed as WildEarth Guardian supporters include Dickey’s BBQ, Sprouts Market and REI.
WildEarth Guardians brought a claim against the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, arguing that a decade old decision to allow mine expansion failed to adhere to federal law.
Lee Boughey, a representative of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which own the ColoWyo mine, says the mine adds more than $200 million to the area’s economy and employs 220 people.