FLX Residents to Gov. Hochul: Stand with New Yorkers, Not Big Crypto Cash!
Advocates, biz owners, electeds urge Gov. Hochul to prove her crypto donors don't influence her decision making by signing the crypto moratorium and denying Greenidge's permits
DRESDEN, NY (06/10/2022) (readMedia)-- This week, Governor Hochul said she may delay her decision about whether to sign the first-in-the-nation cryptomining moratorium bill until the end of the year; after the general election. Despite accepting $40,000 in campaign donations from crypto billionaires who are also spending millions on a SuperPAC to support her Lieutenant Governor candidate, as well as on lobbyists, she claimed at a televised debate that her donors do not influence her decision-making. She also said that:
"We have to be very cautious about facilities going into former fossil fuel power plants...I am not interested in doing anything to harm the environment because I have the most ambitious climate law on the books."
If she means what she says, advocates, business owners, and elected officials called on her in a press conference this morning to prove it by signing the bill into law and denying Greenidge Generation's air permits now, not waiting until June 30, two days after the primary.
"If Governor Hochul is actually committed to protecting the environment and upholding the nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, she won't wait to sign the cryptomining moratorium bill and deny Greenidge Generation's air permits. This is the only logically consistent position. 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 set us back in our fight against climate change, just to make a few rich people even richer. Governor Hochul: put New Yorkers first, not big money, crypto billionaires," said Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Seneca Lake Guardian.
"If Governor Hochul is truly not beholden to out-of-state crypto billionaires pouring money into her and her Lieutenant Governor's campaign, she will stand with New Yorkers by signing the cryptomining moratorium bill and denying Greenidge Generation's permit renewal before Primary Day. New Yorkers have made ourselves heard loud and clear: we don't want cryptomining. The legislature listened. Now it's up to Governor Hochul to protect the Finger Lakes and our $3 billion, 60,000-job agritourism economy, and the planet," said Abi Buddington, secretary, Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes.
"This is a narrow, common-sense piece of legislation that will ensure New York meets our ambitious climate goals and protects our precious fresh water," said Assemblymember Anna Kelles. "The people of Upstate NY are watching this bill and the DEC decision on the Greenidge permits closely. By signing the bill quickly and denying the permits, Governor Hochul will demonstrate that she is a climate champion and not beholden to the deep pockets of the crypto lobby. Further delays will leave the door open and allow the crypto industry to fire up dormant fossil-fuel power plants to operate this energy and water intensive method of crypto mining, putting our billion dollar agritourism industry at risk."
"Crypto billionaires, like many other dark money groups, have poured millions of dollars into PACs to try to buy elections throughout New York State. It's a common playbook thanks to little or no oversight of PAC spending due to the Citizens United ruling. This time around, lawmakers in the NYS legislature listened to real people - not buckets of cash - and voted in favor of a two year moratorium on bitcoin mining. Now, Governor Hochul must sign the bill or it will be seen as typical Albany pay to play politics, something she has vowed vigorously to reverse," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.
"The people of this state have overwhelmingly supported strong action on climate issues-even rural, Republican Seneca County voted in favor of the clean air and water amendment last year. And this Tuesday, my county board will again stand unanimously, hopefully, against Greenidge Generation's absurd exploitation of our wonderful lake," said Kyle Barnhart, Lodi Town Supervisor & Seneca County Town of Supervisors.
"I was so excited when Governor Hochul took office with a promise to clean up Albany. Now I'm not so sure anything has changed. She can prove she and her administration can't be bought by signing the Crypto Moratorium bill before the primary, by having her Department of Environmental Conservation deny Greenidge's air emissions permit in that timeframe too, and by giving the crypto money back," said Irene Weiser, Coordinator, Fossil Free Tompkins and former Councilmember, Town of Caroline.
"I have some great news about the Finger Lakes wine industry, the multi billion dollar economic engine for NYS has not lost half of its value - in fact it continues to grow. In contrast the standard bearer for the cryptomining industry has lost about half its value over the last several months. But at least on the jobs front, the Bitcoin mining company Greenidge has added 28 jobs with their expansion, which is five one hundredths of one percent of the approximately 60,000 wine tourism jobs in the Finger Lakes. For that miniscule addition of jobs, the region gets even more air, water, soil, and noise pollution 24/7 from a major power plant. The profits go to the Connecticut hedge fund and the pollution stays here. Does Governor Hochul really need to wait until after the primary or even after the general election to decide what is best for the residents of this state?" said Michael Warren Thomas, Voice of the Finger Lakes.
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 a significant portion of the U.S.'s cryptomining, 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 widely popular cryptomining moratorium bill would not affect permit applications that have already been submitted or cryptomining plants that are already operating, of which there are many in New York, including Greenidge Generation.
Greenidge is the test case for cryptomining in New York.
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 twice delayed the deadline to make a decision, now 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.
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 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 also 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 new 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.