Today, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation further delayed the Greenidge Generation’s title V-air pollution permit decision, allowing the plant to continue to operate in violation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The new deadline for a decision is June 30, 2022.
The following statement can be attributed to Liz Moran, New York policy advocate for Earthjustice:
“This delay is a failure to the residents and businesses of the Finger Lakes. Governor Hochul must take immediate action to uphold our nation-leading climate law by denying Greenidge’s permit and also instituting a moratorium on proof-of-work mining until its environmental and energy systems impacts can be studied. Proof-of-work crypto mining profits must not come at the expense of our environment and our state’s climate goals.”
Proof-of-work (PoW) mining uses high-capacity computers that run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, working to solve the complex math equations in order to validate “coins.” PoW crypto miners have set up shop in New York, draining energy from New York’s grid and sometimes getting their power 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 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 once dormant fossil fuel-burning power plant. Greenidge power plant was once a mothballed coal-fired plant that 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 15,300 energy-guzzling proof-of-work crypto mining machines that have raised the carbon dioxide (CO2) toxic emissions from 39,406 tons of CO2 (for the year 2019) to 278,846 tons of CO2 (for the year 2021), as it ramped up the installation of cryptocurrency mining equipment.
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 increase toxic algae blooms.
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 cryptocurrency 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.