Assembly Member Kelles, Residents, + Advocates Call on Gov. to Deny Permit for WNY Climate-Killing Crypto-Mine

Following permit denial for Greenidge Generation and NYS's first-in-nation crypto-mining moratorium, advocates demand NYS deny permit for another grandfathered-in, polluting crypto-mine

NORTH TONAWANDA, NY (06/20/2023) (readMedia)-- This morning, Assembly Member Kelles, residents, and environmental advocates held a press conference urging Governor Hochul and her administration to deny the air permit renewal for the Digihost/Fortistar power plant in North Tonawanda, the polluting proof-of-work crypto mining operation in Western New York. Nearly a year ago under Governor Hochul's leadership, the Department of Environmental Conservation followed New York's climate law mandates by denying the air permit for Greenidge Generation, the crypto-mining plant in the Finger Lakes. The same decision must be made for Fortistar to protect the health and wellbeing of North Tonawanda residents and nearby communities.

Watch the press conference here.

"While the DEC sits on Digihost's permit renewal application, those of us who live in North Tonawanda have to deal with the plant's increased air pollution and constant loud noise. The DEC denied Greenidge Generation's air permit on the grounds that the Finger Lakes-based crypto-mine wasn't in line with the state's Climate Act. Why aren't Western New Yorkers entitled to clean air too? Governor Hochul and the DEC must deny Digihost's air permit," said Deborah Gondek, resident of North Tonawanda.

"As New York State works to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions as mandated by our landmark Climate Law, Digihost is increasing the power plant's carbon emissions and local air pollution exponentially, to the detriment of New Yorkers and the planet. Governor Hochul and her administration must begin the public process of reviewing Digihost's permit application, and swiftly deny Digihost's air permit," said Jessamine De Ocampo, Associate Attorney, Clean Energy Program, Earthjustice.

"This should not be a difficult decision to make. In every place cryptocurrency mining operations have settled into power plants, the results are the same: excessive greenhouse gas emissions, a high volume of heated water needing treatment from an overtaxed water treatment system, and constant noise pollution. New York must stand by the commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions we passed into law. These goals are necessary and achievable but only if we can keep the state from going backwards. Granting this air permit to Digihost would do just that while adding insult to injury and increasing health issues in the local community due to all three forms of pollution," said Assembly Member Anna Kelles.

"Local actions have proven insufficient for reining in this industry and this polluter. We need action from our state, and we need it now. We need Governor Hochul and the NYS DEC to be leaders in this fight by beginning the public process of considering this permit, and we hope they will follow the precedent they set last year with Greenidge Generation by denying Digihost/Fortistar's air permit," said Bridge Rauch, Environmental Justice Organizer, Clean Air Coalition of Western NY.

"Nearly a year ago, the DEC denied Greenidge Generation's air permit renewal because the massively polluting crypto-mining operation goes against New York's climate law. Greenidge threatens the Finger Lakes' local economy and our environment, and Governor Hochul recognized that by signing New York's first-in-the-nation crypto-mining moratorium. New York must follow the precedent it set with Greenidge and put everyday New Yorkers over wealthy out-of-state speculators by denying Digihost's air permit," said Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Seneca Lake Guardian.

About crypto-mining at the Digihost/Fortistar power plant

It's been over two years since the Digihost/Fortistar power plant submitted its application for an air permit renewal. It previously served as a peaker power plant, only operating at 0.9% to 4% of its annual capacity over the last five years. But the plant was purchased by Digihost in February 2023, an out-of-state company, which is now transitioning the plant, and planning to ramp up to combust fracked gas 24/7/365 in order to mine Bitcoin. This will increase the plant's carbon substantially – equivalent to 63,170 cars being driven for one year, according to the company's own projections reported to the DEC. Local pollution such as methane and nitrous oxides are also projected to increase.

Burning fossil fuels like gas accelerates climate change. This impacts all of our lives, which we all experienced two weeks ago when smoke from the Canadian wildfires blanketed New York in a post-apocalyptic haze. Climate change makes these fires worse and more frequent, and bad air quality is the world's leading environmental killer, linked to over 100,000 deaths each year in the U.S. alone.

While the City of North Tonawanda is surrounded by water and wildlife, it already bears the burden of significant pollution. Communities surrounding the gas plant have been designated as "disadvantaged communities" under state law, and include census tracts that the state has assessed as bearing an environmental burden greater than that borne by 90% of the state. The increase in operations from crypto-mining at the Digihost/Fortistar power plant will harm an already environmentally overburdened community, in violation of New York's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

Air pollution isn't the only negative impact of Digihost's operations - residents who live nearby the facility report they can hear its loud hum and feel the vibrations inside their homes, even with all of the windows and doors closed. One resident described the sound as "a jet engine running while you're sitting inside the plane." According to the New York Times, a growing body of research shows that chronic noise is a largely unrecognized health threat that increases the risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart attacks.

On top of creating significant air pollution, there are also water use and discharge concerns. When the Digihost/Fortistar gas plant ramps up to 24/7 operations to mine crypto, it will use and then discharge hundreds of thousands of gallons of hot water into an already-overburdened and aging municipal water system that is in need of major upgrades.

There's precedent in NYS for the DEC to deny Digihost's air permit. On June 30, 2022, the NYS DEC denied the Title V Air Permit renewal for Greenidge Generation, a crypto-mining facility in the Finger Lakes, citing dramatic increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, on November 22, 2022, Governor Hochul signed the first-in-the-nation two-year moratorium on new and renewed air permits for fossil-fueled power plants that produce their own energy to mine crypto. The new law requires the DEC perform a full environmental impact assessment on the energy and environmental impacts of crypto mining operations. However, the moratorium did not affect air permit applications that had already been submitted before its enactment, such as Greenidge's and Fortistar's applications.

Digihost has been operating on an air permit that expired on November 8, 2021, and its application for permit renewal has been pending for over two years.


In its most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that Earth is likely to cross a critical and dire threshold for global warming within the next decade if we don't quickly and drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But after China banned proof-of-work crypto-mining (the process Bitcoin uses), citing, among other things, the environmental threats that mining poses to meeting emissions reduction goals, the U.S. is now hosting many energy-intensive proof-of-work crypto-mining operations. While these facilities of automated machines create few new jobs, they threaten the climate, in addition to small businesses, local economies, and natural resources.

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. Fossil-fueled mining facilities can also be major emitters of local air pollutants.

Earlier this year, the New York Times published an in-depth expose about the negative impacts of proof-of-work Bitcoin mining. In September 2022, the White House sounded the alarm about cryptocurrency mining - the Office of Science and Technology Policy released a report about the industry's climate threats and the need for regulation. But cryptocurrency mining continues to grow rapidly across the country. Earthjustice and the Sierra Club released a Guidebook, finding that in one year from mid-2021 to mid-2022, Bitcoin mining in the U.S. alone consumed as much electricity as four states combined, emitting 27.4 million tons of CO2 - equivalent to the emissions of as much as 6 million cars annually. More highlights from the Guidebook:

  • Proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining has grown explosively in the United States since 2020. Today, an estimated 38% of Bitcoin is mined in the U.S, resulting in nearly 30 million tons of excess CO2 emissions in the last year alone.
  • From mid-2021 to mid-2022, Bitcoin consumed 36 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity - as much as all of the electricity consumed in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island put together in that same time period.
  • The massive energy consumption of cryptocurrency mining threatens to undermine decades of progress toward achieving climate goals and reducing local pollution. In addition, cryptocurrency mining practices raise costs and risks for utilities and their ratepayers, can stress electric grids, and flood communities with noise.
  • The cryptocurrency mining industry already uses half the electricity of the entire global banking sector, and it will overtake the sector in two years if current trends continue. Meanwhile, the ratio of Bitcoin's energy consumption to humans who actually have Bitcoin is extremely high.
  • Rather than investing in long-term energy infrastructure that benefits the grid, the cryptocurrency mining industry seeks the fastest energy that can serve its needs, and looks for minimal regulation and oversight. In practice, that translates to mining cryptocurrency at coal and gas plants, straining the electric grid in Texas, and tapping into power grids that are often fossil-fuel heavy.
  • Most mining facilities draw their power from the grid. That means electricity is generated by whatever existing energy is in place in the region. No grid anywhere in the U.S. is 100% renewable yet.
  • Proponents also claim that mining is spurring new renewable development and stabilizing the grid. But clean energy allocated to cryptocurrency mining doesn't actually do anything to decarbonize the grid, and there are few mining facilities that are building renewables to even power their own operations, let alone send to the grid.
  • Cryptocurrency mining proponents claim that mining uses "wasted" energy from solar or wind overproduction. But mining operations consume energy 24 hours a day, not just when there is excess solar or wind - meaning mining operations would fail to be profitable using only the hours when wasted energy is available.

Read the Sierra Club and Earthjustice guidebook here.

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