Today, Earthjustice, Clean Air Council and PennFuture joined Carbon County residents for a virtual press conference urging the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to reject Panther Creek’s request to burn tires to fuel their crypto-mining operations. The Panther Creek power plant — a waste coal-fired power plant now home to thousands of bitcoin mining machines — recently submitted a permit proposal to the DEP requesting permission to co-fire so-called “tire derived fuel” (TDF): essentially, mixing in shredded tires as fuel with the waste coal they use to produce electricity. Environmental organizations and nearby residents raise concerns about the risk to human and environmental health from the plan: Crypto-mining operations consume massive amounts of electricity, and incineration of TDF and the resulting release of a variety of air toxics and other pollutants are linked to respiratory diseases, cancer, and other serious health issues.
A recording of the virtual press conference is available upon request.
Panther Creek is a waste coal-fired power plant located in Nesquehoning, PA that now operates cryptocurrency mining on site, which is an energy-wasteful process for creating virtual currency. Since 2021, when Stronghold Digital Mining, Inc acquired Panther Creek to generate cryptocurrency, the power plant has received at least seven violations related to unpermitted air pollution under the DEP. Panther Creek is now requesting to incinerate 15% shredded tires which would only increase air pollution generated at the site.
Tire Derived Fuel (TDF) is composed of shredded tires, and is often burned alongside conventional fuels like coal. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded that burning tires creates significant emissions of polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) which are known to contain at least seven carcinogens. DEP has also recognized at least seven carcinogens present in PAHs. Despite this danger, Panther Creek does not currently even monitor carcinogenic PAHs.
“Panther Creek Power has been burning dirty waste coal for their cryptomining operations since 2021 and now they want to compound the injury to our community by burning tires. Not only do they plan to burn tires but they do not plan to purchase equipment that would mitigate the impact of their dirty emissions. It is obvious that they intend to maximize their profits without regard to the health and quality of life of the community of Nesquehoning. We say, ‘No-we’ve had enough!'” said Linda Christman, resident of Carbon County and President of Save Carbon County.
“DEP must not allow Panther Creek to burn dirty, tire-derived fuel and pollute the Commonwealth’s air. DEP needs to hold the line and require cleaner fuels,” said Charles McPhedran, Senior Attorney, Earthjustice.
“For a plant that receives significant state subsidies in order to stay in business, it is unacceptable that the wishes of the community continue to be ignored in favor of maximizing private profit. Burning tires for fuel is completely out of step with Pennsylvania’s goals of protecting the environment and public health,” said Emma Bast, Staff Attorney, PennFuture.
“Cryptocurrency is a completely useless private product that provides absolutely no benefit to residents currently impacted by Panther Creek’s incineration of waste coal. Additionally burning tires will only increase carcinogenic air pollution from this facility,” said Russell Zerbo, Advocate, Clean Air Council.
In its recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that global warming will reach dangerous levels if we don’t drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels much faster than we are. But after China banned proof-of-work cryptomining (the process Bitcoin uses), citing, among other things, the environmental threats that mining poses, the U.S. is now hosting many energy-intensive proof-of-work cryptomining operations. While these automated facilities create few new jobs, they threaten the climate, in addition to small businesses, local economies, and natural resources. See, for example, Earthjustce and Sierra Club’s guidebook on this topic.
Proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining is an 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 for cooling. Globally, Bitcoin mining consumes more energy each year than entire countries. In the U.S. alone, Bitcoin mining produces an estimated 40 billion pounds of carbon emissions each year. Fossil-fueled mining facilities can also be major emitters of local air and water pollution, as well as significant noise pollution for local communities.