Thursday, after a previous two-month delay and more than a year of advocacy by residents, business owners, winemakers, environmental activists and elected officials, the state Department of Environmental Conservation of New York has again extended its deadline to make a decision on Greenidge Generation’s Title V Air Permit Renewal.
“It is outrageous that Governor Hochul not only failed to act, but made a decision after the primaries in an apparent attempt to cover her political interests. This total abdication of responsibility is a direct attack on the Finger Lakes, our local agri-tourism economy of $3 billion, 60,000 jobs, and the climate. Political cowardice has a cost and Governor Hochul and all of us may very well suffer the consequences,” said Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Seneca Lake Guardian. “In light of Governor Hochul’s complete lack of accountability, it is now up to the state legislature to take the lead and impose a moratorium on this dangerous industry by passing A7389B/S6486C.”
Deputy Dr. Anna Kelles, D-125 from Ithaca, added, “This action to once again delay the Greenidge air and water permit decision is incredibly disappointing and appears to be politically motivated. The DEC already explicitly requested additional information from claimants about how they are complying with the CLCPA early in the fall of last year. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos and the DEC have had ample time to consider Greenidge’s application in the context of our Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Thousands of elected officials, scientists and concerned citizens have submitted their comments and deserve a decision.
“If we allow proof-of-work cryptomining to grow unchecked across New York, we will fail to meet our climate goals and put our neighbors at risk. There are many ways to validate cryptocurrency transactions, none of which uses as much of our precious energy resources as proof-of-work cryptomining. We simply cannot let proof of work mining lead to this huge spike in energy consumption at a time when climate scientists are collectively declaring that we must reduce our total greenhouse gas emissions by 50% over the next eight coming years to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. ”
Located on the shores of Seneca Lake, Greenidge is a once mothballed power plant that has been converted into a bitcoin mine by the private equity firm that owns it. The plant brought only 48 new jobs to the region compared to the existing $3 billion agritourism economy, employing an estimated 60,000 people, while poisoning the natural resources of the Finger Lakes. With over 17,000 Bitcoin machines and plans to expand to 32,500, Greenidge will emit over one million tons of CO2 each year, the equivalent of 100,000 homes. Greenidge also sucks 139 million gallons of water every day from Seneca Lake and discharges it at 108 degrees, risking toxic algae blooms that render this source of water unsafe for 100,000 people.
The DEC has already confirmed that Greenidge is a threat to New York’s energy goals, as noted in the CLCPA. In an article published in the Albany Times Union, the DEC cast doubt on the continuation of operations:
“Greenidge ‘has not demonstrated that the project is consistent with achieving statewide greenhouse gas emission limits established in the Climate Act.’ The agency said Greenidge has yet to show how the deal would not hamper greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.
And at a recent Environmental Conservation budget hearing, when asked about the potential impact of escalating cryptocurrency mining activity in upstate New York on the network state energy, NYS Energy Research and Development Authority Chair Doreen Harris said, “There could be a very significant impact on NY. load resulting from the mining of cryptocurrency depending on the penetration of the resource.
Greenidge is just the start, and supporters fear a negative ruling could signal to even more outside speculators that New York’s shuttered and underutilized fossil fuel power plants can be bought up and reopened as mining cancers of Gas-guzzling bitcoins on communities. Supporters are urging Governor Hochul to impose a statewide moratorium on proof-of-work crypto mining. New York is home to 20% of bitcoin mining in the United States to the detriment of small businesses, local economies, the environment and the climate. After China banned cryptomining, citing the environmental threats the practice poses to meeting emissions reduction goals, outside speculators flocked to upstate New York to take advantage of non-existent environmental regulations.
According to a new white paper from the Columbia Law School Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, the Governor is well within her legal authority to act – “A Pause on Proof of Work: The Authority of the Executive Branch of New York State to enact a moratorium on allowing consolidated proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining facilities.The document builds on a precedent set in 2010 when the executive signed the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. It concludes that the governor has the authority to stop new proof-of-work cryptomining operations by placing a moratorium on licensing such facilities until a generic environmental impact statement for determine the full extent of mining impacts on communities is complete.
Liz Moran, New York Policy Advocate for Earthjustice, said, “This delay is a setback for Finger Lakes residents and businesses, and allows for more greenhouse gas pollution in New York. If Governor Hochul wants to be a true climate champion, Greenidge’s permit will be denied and a moratorium on proof-of-work mining will be put in place until its impacts on the environment and energy systems can be studied. The benefits of proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining must not come at the expense of our environment and our state’s climate mandates.
“When it comes to climate change, delay equals death,” said Eric Weltman, lead organizer for Food & Water Watch in New York. “Just as New York abandons fossil fuels, resisting fracked gas expansion projects at Danskammer and Astoria NRG, proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining threatens to open a backdoor to pollution. We simply cannot allow our oldest and dirtiest fractured gasworks to be re-powered for destructive crypto mining and maintain hope of meeting our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. Governor Hochul must shut down Greenidge and impose a moratorium on proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining now.
“We implore Governor Hochul to take immediate action to reject the Title V aerial permit for the Greenidge Generating Station and establish a moratorium on energy-intensive cryptocurrency mining operations to study environmental and climate impacts. . New York cannot afford a bitcoin mining explosion wreaking havoc on state climate law and policy and ravaging our energy supply in the midst of a climate crisis. We’re out of time! said Ellen Weininger, director of educational outreach at Grassroots Environmental Education.
Mining proof-of-work cryptocurrency (which Bitcoin uses) is an extremely energy-intensive process that requires thousands of machines running 24/7 to solve complex equations. The more machines running, the faster a part is mined. Each of these machines requires energy to operate, and more energy to operate the cooling technology. Globally, bitcoin proof-of-work mining uses the same amount of energy each year as the entire country of Argentina. It produces 30,700 metric tons of electronic waste each year, which is comparable to the annual waste of IT equipment in the Netherlands. If left unregulated, the industry will cause irrevocable harm to all of New York State, making it impossible to achieve New York’s critical climate goals, as set out in Climate Leadership and Community Protection. Act. The CLCPA is committed to an 85% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 and to 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040.
Legislation (A7389B/S6486C) to impose a three-year moratorium on bitcoin mining in New York State gains momentum in Assembly with 41 co-sponsors, including 15 committee chairs of the meeting of higher rank on February 24.
Joseph Campbell is President of Seneca Lake Guardian, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting the health of the Finger Lakes, its residents and visitors, its character as a rural community, and its agricultural businesses and tourism through public education, citizen participation, engagement with decision-makers, and networking with like-minded organizations.