Pennsylvania Environmental Groups Urge the DEP to Stop Climate-Killing Cryptomining in Elk County, PA
Diversified LLC Wellhead-Gas Cryptomining Proposal in Violation of Pennsylvania's Air Pollution Control Act
MEADVILLE, PA (01/18/2023) (readMedia)-- Yesterday, Earthjustice, Clean Air Council and PennFuture submitted comments to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) 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.
"If the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is not careful, cryptomining may very well become Pennsylvania's next big pollution crisis," said Charles McPhedran, Senior Attorney, Earthjustice.
Diversified operates a natural gas well pad located in Jay Township, Elk County using fracked gas to fuel the cryptocurrency mining operation. Nineteen of Diversified's locations – including the one in Jay Township – are in violation of Pennsylvania's Air Pollution Control Act.
DEP's proposal also failed to set limits and monitor practices for carbon dioxide or methane emissions. Greenhouse gas emissions are a major impact of cryptomining, particularly climate change accelerating carbon dioxide and methane. DEP's draft permit sets no limits for carbon dioxide or methane emissions, and fails to require quarterly monitoring.
The full comments are attached.
"Diversified threatens to undermine Pennsylvania's climate goals and exacerbate public health harms. DEP cannot issue this permit to allow for cryptomining at a gas well site until it takes a critical look at air pollution controls," said Robert Routh, Policy and Regulatory Attorney, Clean Air Council.
"Cryptomining operations continue to burn an enormous amount of polluting fossil fuels to run their wasteful operations and threaten to undo any progress we have made in cleaning up our energy supply. Denying this permit would not only protect our rights to clean air and a healthy environment, it would also help conserve the Pennsylvania Wilds-some of the most pristine and spectacular wilderness in the Commonwealth," said Rob Altenburg, Senior Director for Energy and Climate, PennFuture.
Fracking is widespread in Pennsylvania, and some fracking sites power energy-intensive cryptomining machines. Because many of these operations are unknown and mobile, there are few details about their scale and impact. But there are over 1,000 fracked wells in Pennsylvania at risk of being converted into wellhead cryptomines if the practice continues to go unchecked.
Even the White House has sounded the alarm about cryptocurrency mining - last September, the Office of Science and Technology Policy released a report about the industry's climate threats and the need for regulation. But cryptocurrency mining continues to grow rapidly across the country. Earthjustice and the Sierra Club released a Guidebook, finding that Bitcoin mining in the U.S. alone emitted 27.4 million tons of CO2 - equivalent to the emissions of as much as 6 million cars annually.
In addition to environmental risks, a study conducted at Yale School of Public Health found that Pennsylvania children living near fracking sites at birth were two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with leukemia between the ages of 2 and 7. Additionally, fracking risks air pollution from vehicle emissions and well and road construction, water pollution from fracking and wastewater spills that can contain hundreds of cancer-causing chemicals, and drinking water contamination with oil and gas-related chemicals.
In its recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that global warming will reach dangerous levels if we don't drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels much faster than we are. But after China banned proof-of-work cryptomining (the process Bitcoin uses), citing, among other things, the environmental threats that mining poses to meeting emissions reduction goals, the U.S. is now hosting many energy-intensive proof-of-work cryptomining operations. While these facilities of automated machines create few new jobs, they threaten the climate, in addition to small businesses, local economies, and natural resources.
Proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining is an 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 for cooling. Globally, Bitcoin mining consumes more energy each year than entire countries. In the U.S. alone, Bitcoin mining produces an estimated 40 billion pounds of carbon emissions each year. Fossil-fueled mining facilities can also be major emitters of air pollutants.
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