FLX Winemakers Tell Gov. Hochul: Protect Our Livelihoods, Shut Down Greenidge Cryptomine!
New York wine industry generates 2.4 billion in taxes, 6.65 billion in direct economic activity; Agritourism in FLX = 60,000 jobs compared to 48 at Greenidge Generation
DRESDEN, NY (11/10/2022) (readMedia)-- As Bitcoin tanks and the crypto industry eats itself alive, Greenidge Generation continues to wreak havoc on the climate and the environment in the Finger Lakes. Just like the rest of the crypto industry, Greenidge's stock is tanking – down to a record low $0.65/share from $17.29/share in January 2022. Its CEO abruptly stepped down in October, and Atlas Holdings, the Connecticut-based private equity firm that owns Greenidge, replaced him with a pair of executives affiliated with the firm. In a statement announcing the shakeup, Greenidge projected $22 million in losses for the 2022's third quarter, and reported losing $107.9 million in the second quarter.
This failing company poses an existential threat to the Finger Lakes' economic engine: its wine and agritourism industry. This morning, Finger Lakes winemakers called on Governor Hochul to shut down Greenidge and put New York's homegrown businesses over those of out-of-state speculators.
"While the Governor stalls on any meaningful action around cryptomining, she lets Greenidge heat up Seneca Lake, dredge up Mercury from the lake's floor, and gut our fish population. Meanwhile, our agritourism economy - the people who literally turn that water into wine and generate real money toward New York's bottom line - see their livelihoods at risk. We're sick of the Governor siding with this volatile, scammy industry that's lost 50% of its value since last year." said Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Seneca Lake Guardian. "Shut down Greenidge now."
"It's beyond disheartening to see Greenidge slip through and evade oversight from our regulators, all the while they continue to emit pollution into our air and precious lake and threaten our wine industry," said Vinny Aliperti, co-owner, Billsboro Winery. "The NYS wine industry generates $6.6 billion in economic activity, $2.4 billion in taxes, and employs over 60,000 right here in the Finger Lakes. NYS needs to get its priorities straight. The DEC should shut Greenidge down and begin a public and transparent water permit renewal process."
Even though the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied Greenidge's air permit renewal in June because the facility poses a threat to the state's climate goals, the facility is still operating and even expanding as it appeals the DEC's decision. It's also attempting to renew its water permit without having yet met the conditions of its expired water permit or taking any real steps to protect the health of the lake.
According to a study conducted between June 2021 and April 2022, massive discharges of warmed water from Greenidge into Keuka Outlet and Seneca Lake exceeded state water quality standards. Warm water discharges tend to kill or disrupt fish and other aquatic life, and they contribute to toxic algal blooms that poison lake water - making it completely undrinkable and unusable.
The Finger Lakes is a designated American Viticultural Area, supporting generations of grape growers and winemakers who have helped build the Finger Lakes brand. The region attracts world renowned winemakers like Louis Barruol because of its ideal growing conditions. And as impacts of climate change make it more and more difficult to grow grapes in warmer parts of the world, the Northeast's vineyards have become even more attractive.
In 2019, New York's wine industry was responsible for 72,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in wages. It generated $6.65 billion in direct economic activity, and $2.4 billion in taxes. 1.43 million people visited New York wineries in 2019, spending $3 billion on tourism-related activities. But Greenidge Generation's threats to the climate and environment thanks to its climate-killing cryptomining threaten the entire industry.
Even the White House is sounding the alarm about cryptomining - in September, the Office of Science and Technology Policy released a report about the industry's climate threats and the need for regulation. But cryptomining continues to grow rapidly across New York and the country. Earthjustice and the Sierra Club recently released a new Guidebook, finding that from July 2021-22 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.
"It's outrageous that Greenidge is still threatening the Finger Lakes, even after the DEC made clear that it's a threat to New York's climate mandates. Governor Hochul must step in to protect the climate and livelihoods of people living near the fossil fuel plants that power crypto operations. It's time to sign the cryptocurrency mining moratorium bill and shut down Greenidge Generation," said Liz Moran, New York Policy Advocate for Earthjustice.
"To risk our health, the health of our ecosystem, and at the same time our livelihoods and agricultural heritage? So much is on the line here - and for what? So some out of state corporation can cash in on a short-term gold rush - making money for themselves, and leaving us to pick up the pieces? It's not even close to worth it," said Ian Thorsen McCarthy, owner, Behemoth Farm Winery.
On June 30, after more than a year of advocacy by residents, business owners, wine makers, environmental activists, and elected officials, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied Greenidge Generation a renewal of its Title V Air Permit. Greenidge has been operating as a 24/7 proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining facility for Bitcoin under grandfathered in permits for other usage.
Located on the shores of Seneca Lake, Greenidge is a once-mothballed power plant that was converted into a bitcoin mine by the private equity firm that owns it. The plant has brought only 48 new jobs to the region compared to the existing $3 billion agritourism economy, employing approximately 68,000 people, while poisoning the Finger Lakes' natural resources. With over 17,000 Bitcoin machines and plans to expand to 32,500, if permitted to continue operating and expanding, Greenidge would emit over one million tons of CO2 each year, equivalent 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 up to 108 degrees, risking toxic algal blooms that could make this water source for 100,000 people non-potable.
Gothamist recently reported, "The company has added about 10,000 computers and mined about 300 bitcoins in July alone, which would be worth more than $6 million. Their hash rates, a unit of how much power the bitcoin network is using, increased by nearly 70% over the last four months." The added computers mean more greenhouse gas emissions (it's on track to emit at least as much as 100,000 homes), more harm to Seneca Lake (a new study confirms that Greenidge's operations are warming the lake), and a bigger threat to the local $3 billion agritourism industry that employs 68,000 people - all for the 48 jobs that Greenidge has brought to the region.
Greenidge is just the beginning, and advocates are urging Governor Hochul to put a statewide moratorium on proof-of-work cryptomining. New York hosts a significant portion of the U.S.'s Bitcoin mining to the detriment of small businesses, local economies, the environment, and the climate. After China banned cryptomining, citing the environmental threats the practice poses to meeting emissions reduction goals, outside speculators have flocked to upstate New York to take advantage of our clean air, cool temperatures, fresh water, and lack of cryptocurrency mining environmental regulations.
Proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining is an extremely energy intensive process that threatens the ability of governments across the globe to reduce our dependence on climate-warming fossil fuels. Mining 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 the entire country of Argentina. In the U.S. alone, Bitcoin mining produces an estimated 40 billion pounds of carbon emissions each year. Cryptocurrency mining facilities are major emitters of air pollutants. And when cryptocurrency miners rely on the public grid, they can stick everyday people with the bill. A 2021 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."
Powering Bitcoin mining with renewables is not a viable solution, as renewables supply cannot possibly meet the extreme energy demands of Bitcoin mining in addition to daily necessities such as heating and cooling homes and running cars. Any renewable energy that supports Bitcoin mining is renewable energy that is being diverted from the public grid.
At an Environmental Conservation budget hearing when asked about the potential impact of the escalating cryptocurrency mining activity in upstate NY on the state's 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."
Cryptomining 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.
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.
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. 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 permits due to its massive greenhouse gas emissions, poisoning of the Finger Lakes, and noise pollution, with no economic benefit to the community. Similar fights have occurred in Plattsburgh and Niagara Falls, which resulted in local moratoriums.
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.