ALBANY, NY (06/03/2022) (readMedia)-- Last night, the NYS Senate passed legislation (A.7389-C Kelles/S.6486-D Parker) that will establish a first in the nation two-year moratorium on new and renewed permits for proof-of-work cryptomining operations housed at fossil fuel-burning power plants. The bill will also require the Department of Environmental Conservation to perform a full environmental impact assessment in a year's time on cryptomining operations and how they affect New York's ability to meet the climate goals mandated in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. The bill has already passed the Assembly so now it goes to Governor Hochul to sign it into law.
"Instead of cowering to cryptomining cash, Governor Hochul must follow the legislature's lead by signing this bill into law and then denying Greenidge Generation's air permit renewal. In the Finger Lakes and across the state, wealthy out-of-state speculators are invading our communities to destroy our natural resources, kneecap local businesses, and keep us from meeting the crucial climate goals outlined by the CLCPA, just to make a few rich people even richer. Governor Hochul cannot possibly now greenlight Greenidge Generation's fracked gas-fueled mining just to make volatile speculative money in the middle of a climate crisis." said Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian.
"Even though the moratorium doesn't directly impact existing cryptomines like Greenidge Generation and North Tonawanda, this bill passing shows that New Yorkers don't want cryptomining hurting our local businesses and setting us back in our fight against climate change," said Joseph Campbell, president of Seneca Lake Guardian. "Governor Hochul has already twice delayed a decision on Greenidge, and based on her recent campaign filings, it's clear that this is due to a courtship with the crypto industry. The Finger Lakes community sees this as a political black eye. She must prioritize everyday New Yorkers over wealthy out-of-state corporations by adopting a statewide moratorium on cryptomining and denying Greenidge Generation's permit renewal."
"Last night, the NYS Senate stood up for our climate and our CLCPA goals joining the actions taken in April by the NYS Assembly despite enormous financial pressure by the crypto industry to kill this bill," said Assemblymember Anna Kelles. "Now, it is up to Governor Hochul to sign this bill and ensure that we don't let proof-of-work mining in our fossil-fuel based power plants lead to an enormous energy consumption spike in the middle of a climate crisis."
"In the face of industry lies and tremendous spending, the New York Senate has stood up for New Yorkers and our landmark climate law with the passage of this crucial bill to address cryptomining in fossil fuel power plants," said Liz Moran, New York Policy Advocate for Earthjustice. "With this bill's passage, the legislature has rightly said fossil fuel power plants can't get a second life in New York just for private industry gain, which would fly on the face of the state's climate mandates. We applaud the Senate for passing this bill and thank Senator Parker and Assemblymember Kelles for shepherding this through. Governor Hochul should not hesitate to sign this bill into law."
"I live on the front lines in a community negatively impacted by a once shuttered power plant that was brought back online to mine cryptocurrency. I've said all along that this should not be a town by town fight, and I applaud our state legislators for standing up for New Yorkers. Now it's time for Governor Hochul to deny Greenidge's Title V Air Permit and adopt a moratorium on proof of work crypto," said Abi Buddington, secretary of Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes.
In recent weeks, opposition to the moratorium has been fueled by an influx of lobbying from the cryptomining industry and the Koch Brothers'-funded Club for Growth, a group that funds anti-gay, anti-abortion, far right candidates. The Club spent $30,000 to spread lies fighting the bill.
Additionally, last Friday, Governor Hochul reported a $40,000 campaign donation from Ashton Soniat, Chairman & CEO of Coinmint, which operates one of the world's largest cryptomining facilities in Massena, NY. She also reported $78,000 in donations from Albany lobbying firm Ostroff Associates and its partners, which count crypto miner Blockfusion as a client.
The New York Times reported, "Ms. Hochul's campaign reported that she received the donation from Mr. Soniat, via credit card, on May 23. A day later, Ms. Hochul, during a breakfast with legislators at the governor's mansion in Albany, spoke optimistically about the potential job creation bonanza in the economically distressed area.
Assemblywoman Anna R. Kelles, a Democrat who represents the Ithaca area, said Ms. Hochul told her the state can't ignore the jobs crypto mining in Massena could bring. Ms. Kelles said Ms. Hochul told her, "I spoke to them and they said they employ about 140 people and they are looking to go up to 400 employees in an area where there are very few industries. So this is really important.'"
This legislation will not affect permit applications that have already been submitted or cryptomining plants that are already operating, of which there are many in New York. After being banned in China, outside speculators are flocking to New York to take advantage of a complete lack of regulations. New York now hosts 20% of the country's proof-of-work cryptomining - the most of any state, despite the economic risks associated with cryptomining and cryptocurrency, as advocacy groups Strong Economy for All and Action Center and Race and Economy suggest.
The test case for cryptomining in New York is Greenidge Generation.
Located on the shores of Seneca Lake, Greenidge operates over 17,000 Bitcoin mining machines and is expanding to over 32,500, with visible smokestacks pumping dirty fossil fuels into the air 24/7. This will lead to over 1 million tons of CO2 emissions each year, equal to that of 100,000 homes. Greenidge also sucks up to 139 million gallons of water each day from Seneca Lake and dumps it back in at up to 108 degrees. Gregory Boyer, director of SUNY's Great Lakes Research Consortium, has warned about Greenidge's potential to cause harmful algal blooms, which can be dangerous or fatal to humans and other animals in Seneca Lake, and make this water source for 100,000 people non-potable.
Greenidge's air permits are up for renewal by Governor Hochul and the DEC, who have given themselves five additional months to make a decision. The new deadline is June 30, two days after the gubernatorial primary. The DEC has consistently cited the need to sift through 4,000 public comments as part of the reason for this delay, but researchers from Cornell University FOILed for the comments, and found that 98% of the comments are opposed to Greenidge. In addition, more than 1,000 local businesses, organizations, winermakers, labor unions, and more have taken action against Greenidge because of the threats its air, water, and noise pollution pose to the local $3 billion, 60,000-employee agritourism economy.
Advocates warn that a renewal of Greenidge's air permits would signal to more outside speculators that New York is welcoming gas guzzling Bitcoin mining threats to local businesses and cancers on communities.
The DEC has already confirmed that Greenidge is a threat to New York's energy goals as outlined in the state's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. In a recent story, "DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos told WSKG that he continues to have "significant concerns" whether Greenidge Generation's operations will be compliant with the state's statutory climate goals under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, or CLCPA." Seggos later said, "Our belief still stands that this is a facility that's going to have an uphill battle complying with the law."
And at 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."
Proof-of-work cryptocurrency 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. 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.
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 Greenidge and crypto mining in New York State. NYC Comptroller Brad Lander sent a letter to NYS Leadership expressing strong support for a cryptomining moratorium. A letter sent to Governor Hochul in October was signed by more than 650 individuals and groups. 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 grandfathered-in permits. And recently, several groups sent an open letter to Senators Gillibrand and Schumer urging them to visit the Finger Lakes and meet the residents and business owners whose livelihoods are suffering the environmental and economic consequences of Greenidge.
Advocates are also calling on Governor Hochul to put a moratorium on cryptomining through executive action. The Governor is well within her legal authority to act, according to a white paper from Columbia Law School Sabin Center for Climate Change Law: A Pause on Proof-Of-Work: The New York State Executive Branch's Authority to Enact a Moratorium on the Permitting of Consolidated Proof of Work Cryptocurrency Mining Facilities. The paper (summary of findings available here) draws on precedent established in 2010 when the executive branch signed the fracking moratorium. It finds the Governor has authority to stop new proof-of-work cryptomining operations by enacting a moratorium on the permitting of these facilities until a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) to determine the full extent of the impacts of mining on communities is complete.
Cryptomining is at odds with the overwhelmingly popular amendment to the New York 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.
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 requested details from six major Bitcoin mining companies about their electricity usage and contributions to climate change. The NY League of Conservation voters sent a letter to Governor Hochul urging her to pause and regulate cryptomining, and 1199 SEIU recently announced their endorsement of a cryptomining moratorium. Earlier this year, President Biden issued an executive order requiring federal agencies study the legal, economic, and environmental impacts of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin mining. 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."
About Seneca Lake Guardian
Seneca Lake Guardian is a New York State Not-for-Profit Corporation with 501(c)(3) and is dedicated to preserving and protecting the health of the Finger Lakes, its residents and visitors, its rural community character, and its agricultural and tourist related businesses through public education, citizen participation, engagement with decision makers, and networking with like-minded organizations.