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June 30, 2022

New York State Denies Air Pollution Permit for Fossil Fuel-burning Crypto mining operation, Citing Energy-Intensity and Environmental Concerns

Victory: With New York’s nation-leading climate law, furthering fossil fuel burning is not within the state’s goals

Contacts

Nydia Gutiérrez, Earthjustice

Albany, N.Y.

Today, following the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruling on West Virginia v EPA limiting federal action on climate pollution, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied the Greenidge Generation fossil fuel-burning power plant’s Title-V air permit, finding that the energy and climate impacts Proof-of-Work (PoW) cryptocurrency mining operations at the power plant are inconsistent with New York’s climate goals. The precedent-setting decision reflects New York leadership’s commitment to combat the climate crisis, protect people’s health and the environment, and dedication to the transition away from fossil fuel dependency.

Read the decision in the Notice of Denial of Title V Air Permit and in the statement from NYS DEC.

The following statement can be attributed to Liz Moran, New York policy advocate for Earthjustice:

“On the heels of a major federal blow to climate action from SCOTUS, New York has stood up for the climate and public health by denying Greenidge’s Title V air permit. Thanks to the tireless advocacy of community advocates across the state, this marks a major win for all of New York and demonstrates New York’s commitment to adhering to our landmark climate law. We applaud the Governor and the Department of Environmental Conservation for listening to the science and rightfully denying this permit — but the work cannot end here. Now Governor Hochul must ensure we meet our climate mandates by signing S.6486-D/A.7389-C into law. The 2-year moratorium bill on air permits for proof-of-work crypto mining at fossil fuel power plants would protect other New York communities and enable New York State to investigate the environmental and climate consequences of this practice. Proof-of-work crypto mining profits must not come at the expense of New Yorkers health, the environment, and our state’s climate mandates.”

The following statement can be attributed to Mandy DeRoche, deputy managing attorney in the Coal Program for Earthjustice:

“Communities, people, local economies, the planet, and future generations are harmed by the increased air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from mining proof-of-work cryptocurrency by combusting fossil fuels. New York’s climate law was designed to prevent unjustified, polluting operations that will worsen the climate crisis. We applaud the denial of the facility's air pollution permit.”

Background:

Proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining uses high-capacity machines that run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, using large amounts of electricity to solve the complex math equations in order to validate “coins,” like Bitcoin. Proof-of-work crypto miners have targeted New York to feed their intense energy needs including by refiring once-dormant fossil fuel-burning power plants. As a result, proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining stands to jeopardize New York’s ability to meet its climate mandates under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which calls for reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030, by increasing overall energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Since 2020, residents surrounding Seneca Lake have endured increased air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from this crypto mining, fossil fuel-burning power plant. Greenidge power plant sat dormant for six years before it was repurposed to burn natural gas to supply power to the grid in times of high demand. Finding that unprofitable, the owners installed tens-of-thousands of electricity-guzzling proof-of-work crypto mining machines that have raised the carbon dioxide (CO2) toxic emissions ten-fold in just 2020 alone, as it ramped up the installation of cryptocurrency mining equipment according to data obtained through the Freedom of Information Law.

Finger Lakes residents, local business owners and environmental advocates have also raised concerns about the impact from 24/7 proof-of-work crypto mining's discharges of hot water directly into Seneca Lake. The current water permit allows Greenidge to discharge 134 million gallons daily, at temperatures as high as 108 degrees Fahrenheit. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, increased water temperatures can stress fish and can increase toxic algae contamination.

Proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining operations can be expected to increase operations of old fossil fuel-based power plants across the country, including in New York. Because proof-of-work crypto mining consumes so much energy, it would be near impossible for renewable energy sources to meet residential and industrial needs along with New York’s existing and expected renewable energy needs from beneficial electrification efforts as the state strives to meet CLCPA requirements and standards. Should proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining continue to expand in New York, it would drastically undermine New York’s climate goals established under the CLCPA.

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Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.