ICYMI: DEC Says Greenidge Bitcoin Mining Plant Does Not Meet NYS Climate Goals

DEC confirms Finger Lakes peaker plant turned 24/7 Bitcoin Mining operation's air permit renewal application is not consistent with the CO2 emissions reductions limits of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act

DRESDEN, NY (02/18/2022) (readMedia)-- Yesterday, Gothamist quoted the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation saying that Greenidge Generation's expanded plans for Bitcoin mining will interfere with the state's ability to meet the greenhouse gas emission limits set forth in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Greenidge, a peaker plant converted by the private equity firm that owns it to a 24/7 operation to mine Bitcoin, operates more than 17,000 energy-intensive mining machines with plans to expand to 32,500. This will lead to 1,000,000 tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions each year, equal to that of 100,000 homes.

"The air [permit] application does not currently meet the requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act," the state Department of Environmental Conservation wrote in an email to Gothamist. "Notably it has not shown that it is consistent or would not interfere with the attainment of statewide greenhouse gas emission limits; nor has it provided sufficient justification or identified alternative or sufficient mitigation."

The DEC's final decision on Greenidge's air permit renewal was expected by January 31, but it was pushed back two months, allowing the plant to continue harming the community and expanding its operations.

"Outside speculators are invading the Finger Lakes to destroy our natural resources, kneecap local businesses, and keep us from meeting the crucial climate goals outlined by the CLCPA. Now that we know that the DEC agrees, it cannot possibly renew Greenidge Generation's air permits, and Governor Hochul must impose a moratorium on Bitcoin mining. Repowering or expanding coal and gas plants to make fake money in the middle of a climate crisis is literally insane," said Joseph Campbell, president of Seneca Lake Guardian.

Support for a moratorium on Bitcoin mining has been gaining growing momentum. Last week, NYC Mayor Adams made comments opposing crypto mining during a Joint Legislative Hearing on the Executive Budget. And reform groups Common Cause/NY and NYPIRG have previously criticized the crypto mining industry for exploiting public resources and straining the energy grid for private gain. Last month, gubernatorial candidate Jumaane Williams joined Finger Lakes business owners and residents to draw attention to the environmental and economic risks of mining. In addition, a group of federal lawmakers led by Senator Elizabeth Warren recently requested details from six major Bitcoin miners about their electricity usage and contributions to climate change.

Located on the shores of Seneca Lake, Greenidge Generation is the test case for the future of Bitcoin mining in New York State. After China banned Bitcoin mining, citing the environmental threats the practice poses to meeting emissions reduction goals, outside speculators are flocking to upstate New York to take advantage of the nonexistent environmental regulations. New York now hosts 20% of the U.S.'s Bitcoin mining to the detriment of small businesses, local economies, the environment, and the climate. Advocates warn that an approval of Greenidge's air permits would signal to more speculators that New York's fossil fuel-burning plants, closed as we work toward reducing emissions, are ready to re-open as gas guzzling Bitcoin mining cancers on communities.

The increased CO2 emissions as a result of Bitcoin mining aren't just harmful for the climate - this industry's air pollution includes the same type of particulate matter that the EPA just found responsible for the preventable deaths of 143,000 elderly people. Additionally, Greenidge is permitted to withdraw 139 million gallons of water each day from Seneca Lake and dump it back in at temperatures up to 108 degrees, risking toxic algal blooms that make this water source for 100,000 people non-potable. The plant brings very few new jobs to the region (there were only 26 employees in 2020) while poisoning the air and natural resources the local $3 billion agritourism economy, employing more than 58,000 people, relies on.

The Bitcoin mining industry as a whole is extremely energy-intensive. 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. And when crypto miners rely on the public grid, they stick everyday New Yorkers 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.


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. 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. Greenidge Generation is still operating in Dresden, NY under grandfathered-in permits granted for use as a peaker plant, not 24/7 Bitcoin mining. Greenidge has applied for an air permit renewal and is awaiting a decision from the Department of Environmental Conservation. Similar fights have occurred in Plattsburgh and Niagara Falls, which resulted in local moratoriums.

Seneca Lake Guardian is urging Governor Hochul to place a moratorium on proof-of-work crypto mining with dozens of environmental organizations in the Stop Proof-of-Work Crypto Coalition including Earthjustice, NYPIRG, Sierra Club, and Food and Water Watch. There is a bill before both houses of the State Legislature that would place a statewide moratorium on proof-of-work crypto mining: S6486C and A7389B.

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.

There are 49 decommissioned or underutilized power plants across the state, phasing out as New York reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, that could again guzzle fossil fuels - this time for their own private interests without any public benefit. If left unregulated, the industry will wreak irrevocable harm on the entire state of New York, making it impossible to reach New York's crucial climate goals as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The CLCPA commits to an 85% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 and 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040.

Bitcoin mining 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. In particular, in the Finger Lakes region, this industry is harming the natural resources that are under consideration for a National Heritage Area Designation.

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.