Seneca Lake, NY
Today President Biden signed an executive order directing the Justice Department, Treasury, and other agencies to study the legal, economic, and environmental impact of cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin mining. Reports are due in 180-days. New York is currently home to the most crypto mining in the country at 20%, where advocates have been pushing the Governor for months to impose a moratorium until the state can properly assess the environmental impact. Greenidge Generation in Dresden, NY is the test case for the rapidly growing Bitcoin mining industry in New York, and advocates are further urging the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to deny their renewal application for air permits.
“Seneca Lake Guardian is thrilled to see President Biden taking action, now we need Governor Hochul to step up and protect New Yorkers from climate killing Bitcoin mining that’s threatening our natural resources, local businesses, and our climate goals as outlined in the CLCPA (Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act). Repowering or expanding coal and gas plants to make fake money in the middle of a climate crisis is literally insane. New Yorkers deserve a sane energy policy, and leaders who understand that regulation is about saving lives not enabling climate killing currencies favored by authoritarian states and criminals,” said Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Seneca Lake Guardian.
Gothamist recently published an extensive story about the threat of cryptomining to New York’s energy goals as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Referring specifically to the Greenidge Generation peaker plant that’s been operating as a 24/7 Bitcoin mining operation under grandfathered in air permits, the Department of Environmental Conservation cast doubts about continuing operations:
“The air [permit] application does not currently meet the requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act,” the state Department of Environmental Conservation wrote in an email to Gothamist. “Notably it has not shown that it is consistent or would not interfere with the attainment of statewide greenhouse gas emission limits; nor has it provided sufficient justification or identified alternative or sufficient mitigation.”
Globally, proof-of-work Bitcoin mining uses the same amount of energy each day as the entire country of Argentina. It produces 30,700 metric tons of e-waste each year, comparable to the yearly IT equipment waste of the Netherlands. If left unregulated, the industry will wreak irrevocable harm on the entire state of New York, making it impossible to reach New York’s crucial climate goals as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The CLCPA commits to an 85% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 and 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040.
“Studies on the potential impacts of the swiftly developing cryptomining market are critical to ensure that we can regulate this large scale industry and their potential strike to our environment and economy here in New York”, said Eric Wood, regional coordinator for NYPIRG. “New York State policy makers need to halt all developing “proof of work” crypto facilities in New York until further assessments can be made.”
“Bitcoin mining is hurting New York communities and our climate right now. With mere years left to avoid irreversible climate catastrophe, it is unconscionable that the Hochul administration could allow the re-powering of dirty old fracked gas plants to power bitcoin mining,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Eric Weltman. “The science is clear, and so are Governor Hochul’s legal and moral obligations, and there is no time to delay — Governor Hochul must pause Bitcoin mining in New York and she must do it now.”
Liz Moran, New York policy advocate for Earthjustice, said, “The climate crisis demands that we study the environmental impacts of energy-intensive cryptocurrencies. We applaud President Biden’s directive to conduct an environmental review and urge Governor Hochul to follow suit. We must follow New York’s nation-leading climate law and waste no time ensuring that proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining does not jeopardize our critical climate goals and community protections. Governor Hochul must deny the Greenidge facility’s operating permit and issue a statewide cryptocurrency mining moratorium until an environmental review has been completed.”
“Governor Hochul should quickly take a page from President Biden by immediately issuing an Executive Order to establish a moratorium on Proof of Work cryptocurrency mining operations in New York State and denying the permits up for renewal for the Greenidge Generating Station on Seneca Lake. We cannot afford to repower or expand dirty power plants to burn more fossil fuels for energy intensive mining facilities for cryptocurrency and other blockchain operations with catastrophic consequences for our health, the environment and our climate crisis and in violation of New York’s climate law and policies,” said Ellen Weininger, director of Educational Outreach at Grassroots Environmental Education.
“Like King Midas, cryptominers’ power needed to produce the virtual ‘gold’ they crave is potentially destroying the future for their own food, wine, daughters, and sons,” said Mary Finneran, co-founder of Frackbusters NY.
“There are many more jobs created in renewable energy projects than in reopening mothballed fossil fuel plants to mine cryptocurrency. Plus renewable energy jobs are sustainable, do not pollute and therefore contribute to the loss of our quality of life,” said Fred Pfeiffer, Solidarity Committee of the Capital District and former GE energy worker.
Reform groups Common Cause/NY and NYPIRG have specifically criticized the crypto mining industry for exploiting public resources and straining the energy grid for private gain, and a group of federal lawmakers led by Senator Elizabeth Warren recently requested details from six major Bitcoin mining companies about their electricity usage and contributions to climate change. Even the Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, an avid crypto booster has come out against mining, declaring at a February 9th joint session of the Legislature: “I support cryptocurrency, not crypto mining.”
In a recent Environmental Conservation budget hearing when asked about the potential impact of the escalating cryptocurrency mining activity in upstate NY on the states energy grid, the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) President Doreen Harris stated, “There could be a very significant impact on NY load resulting from cryptocurrency mining depending on the penetration of the resource.”
Legislation (A7389B/S6486C) to place a 3 year moratorium on Bitcoin mining in New York State is picking up steam in the Assembly with 41 co-sponsors including 15 senior-ranking Assembly committee chairs as of February 24.
Proof-of-work cryptocurrency (which Bitcoin uses) is an extremely energy-intensive process that requires thousands of machines whirring 24/7 to solve complex equations. The more machines that are running, the faster a coin is mined. Each one of these machines requires energy to run, plus more energy to run cooling technology. There are 49 decommissioned or underutilized power plants across the state, phasing out as New York reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, that could again guzzle fossil fuels — this time for their own private interests without any public benefit. If left unregulated, the industry will wreak irrevocable harm on the entire state of New York, making it impossible to reach New York’s crucial climate goals as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The CLCPA commits to an 85% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 and 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040. It’s an added expense for every day New Yorkers too: one study estimates “the power demands of cryptocurrency mining operations in upstate New York push up annual electric bills by about $165 million for small businesses and $79 million for individuals.”
Crypto mining is also at odds with the overwhelmingly popular amendment to the state constitution passed last year, which guarantees every New Yorker the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthful environment. Revitalizing old polluting power plants for private financial gain, with drastic consequences for our air, water, and climate, all while causing huge amounts of noise pollution, is now unconstitutional — and ought to be treated as such.
Greenidge Generation is the test case for the rapidly growing Bitcoin mining industry in New York.
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. Greenidge operates over 17,000 Bitcoin mining machines and is expanding to over 32,500, pumping dirty fossil fuels into the air 24/7. This will lead to over one million tons of CO2 emissions each year, equal to that of 100,000 homes. Greenidge also sucks 139 million gallons of water each day from Seneca Lake and dumps it back in at 108 degrees, risking toxic algal blooms that make this water source for 100,000 people non-potable. The plant brings very few new jobs to the region while poisoning the air and natural resources the local $3 billion agritourism economy relies on.
The DEC’s decision on Greenidge’s air permit renewal was expected by January 31, but it was pushed back two months, allowing it to continue harming the community and expanding its operations.
More than 1,000 organizations, businesses, environmental activists, concerned residents, wine makers, elected officials, and more have taken action over the last year in opposition to crypto mining in New York State. In letters to Governor Cuomo last year opposing Greenidge Generation’s expansion from an emergency peaker plant to a 24/7 Bitcoin mining operation, organizations, businesses, and Finger Lakes residents demanded Gov. Cuomo revoke Greenidge’s permits due to its massive greenhouse gas emissions, poisoning of the Finger Lakes, and noise pollution, with no economic benefit to the community. Greenidge Generation is still operating in Dresden, NY under grandfathered-in permits granted for use as a peaker plant, not 24/7 Bitcoin mining. Greenidge has applied for an air permit renewal and is awaiting a decision from the Department of Environmental Conservation. Similar fights have occurred in Plattsburgh and Niagara Falls, which resulted in local moratoriums.