ICYMI: Elk County Well Pad Plant Mining Cryptocurrency without DEP Permit

"After a recent inspection, the [Department of Environmental Protection] DEP has determined that Diversified was in violation."

ELK COUNTY, PA (03/29/2023) (readMedia)-- Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) confirmed that Diversified Production LLC installed and operated cryptocurrency mining infrastructure in Elk County before obtaining the required permits from the Department. Diversified applied for a permit to build five gas-powered engines and one generator with the purpose of mining cryptocurrency, but they began operations before the DEP's approval. The well pad originally housed fracking operations initially drilled in 2011, but sat inactive for years before being converted into a cryptocurrency mining site.

First reported by Audrey Carleton at Capital & Main, the DEP stated Diversified is "required by law to obtain a plan approval from DEP prior to installation and operation of the air contamination sources. Installation of the equipment without a plan approval could lead to enforcement action by the DEP."

"Given Diversified's history, this is not a surprise," said Charles McPhedran, a senior attorney with Earthjustice and co-author of a comment opposing Diversified's cryptocurrency permit application to the DEP. "The question is whether DEP can make a forceful response to rogue crypto operators."

Prior to the DEP's acknowledgement, Earthjustice, Clean Air Council and PennFuture submitted comments to the DEP earlier this year urging the department to withdraw approval for Diversified Production LLC, a cryptocurrency mining operation that uses fracked gas. The environmental organizations cited the energy-intensive nature of cryptocurrency mining, its threats to air quality, and Diversified's failure to meet critical DEP requirements. The Jay Township Board of Supervisors filed comments regarding the noise produced by cryptomining that hums loudly enough to have solicited numerous noise complaints from residents.

Fracking is widespread in Pennsylvania, and many fracking sites, like Diversified's many locations in Pennsylvania, now power energy-intensive cryptomining machines. Because many of these operations are unknown and some are mobile, there are few details about their scale and impact on local communities and the climate. Fracked gas wells in Pennsylvania are at risk of being converted into wellhead cryptomines if the practice continues to go unchecked.

Read the full reporting from Capital & Main here.