DRESDEN, NY (05/20/2022) (readMedia)-- This morning, Finger Lakes winery owners and industry members urged Governor Hochul to deny Greenidge Generation's permit renewal and support a moratorium on proof-of-work cryptomining. In the Finger Lakes alone, which was just named the most beautiful place in New York by Travel & Leisure, the $3 billion agritourism economy supports 60,000 jobs. Meanwhile, Greenidge, a fracked gas-burning power plant using grandfathered-in permits to run 24/7 as a climate-killing Bitcoin mine, has only brought 48 new jobs to the region while threatening the natural resources the local $3 billion, 60,000-job wine and tourism industry depend on.
Watch the press conference here, featuring Michael Warren Thomas, the Voice of the Finger Lakes; Christopher Bates, Master Sommelier and owner of FLX Hospitality; Tina Hazlitt, manager of Sawmill Creek Vineyards; and Vinny Aliperti, co-owner of Billsboro Winery.
"Three generations of my family rely on the production of our vineyard to live. Further impacts on the environment directly threaten our future generations. I'd like to see Greenidge Generation's sustainability plan that protects us and our way of life, instead of working against everything we as a wine industry have already accomplished and continue to strive for. Governor Hochul MUST deny Greenidge's permits and support a moratorium on cryptomining. Our family farm is counting on you," said Tina Hazlitt, Manager, Sawmill Creek Vineyards.
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 and Paul Hobbs (once coined the Steve Jobs of wine) because of its ideal growing conditions. 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 after being banned in China, outside speculators are flocking to New York, taking advantage of the nonexistent oversight and regulations to the detriment of the climate, natural resources, and local businesses.
Located on the shores of Seneca Lake, Greenidge operates over 17,000 Bitcoin mining machines and is expanding to over 32,500, 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 is the test case for cryptomining in New York State. Its air permits are currently up for renewal by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and advocates warn that a renewal of its air permits would signal to more outside speculators that New York's fossil fuel power plants, closed as we work toward meeting greenhouse gas emissions reductions goals, are available to be bought up and re-opened as gas guzzling Bitcoin mining threats to local businesses and cancers on communities.
The DEC has consistently cited the need to sift through 4000 public comments as part of the reason for the now five month delay in making a decision. The new deadline is June 30th, two days after the gubernatorial primary. Researchers from Cornell University FOILed for the comments, and found that 98% of the comments are opposed to Greenidge.
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. 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.
In addition to supporting legislation (A7389B/S6486C) to place a 2 year moratorium on proof-of-work cryptomining in New York State, advocates are calling on Governor Hochul to do the same.
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.