DRESDEN, NY (01/24/2023) (readMedia)-- On Tuesday, on behalf of Seneca Lake Guardian, Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, and Sierra Club, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against Greenidge Generation for violating the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit alleges that Greenidge's ongoing discharges into Keuka Lake Outlet and Seneca Lake are illegal because its permit is expired.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued Greenidge a water discharge permit in 2017 that expired on September 30, 2022. When asking DEC to renew its permit, Greenidge failed to submit information required by federal law for "once through cooling" facilities like Greenidge - those that use water withdrawn from a waterbody for cooling purposes and then discharge heated water back into the same waterbody. Because Greenidge failed to submit a sufficient renewal application more than 180 days before its permit expired, Greenidge's continued discharges under the expired permit are illegal. The lawsuit asks the court to order Greenidge to stop water discharges until DEC can issue the facility a new permit.
The full text of the complaint is attached.
"Those of us who live on Seneca Lake have to deal with Greenidge's daily threats to our local agritourism industry, health, and climate. We're grateful that the DEC applied the Climate Act in considering Greenidge's air permit, but it must apply the same standard now as it considers the water permit. Our natural resources must be protected from for-profit companies whose only interest is to squeeze every last dime out of our communities no matter who or what they harm," said Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian.
"Companies are allowed to continue discharging under an expired water discharge permit, but only if they have provided to DEC all the information the law requires them to submit with their renewal application. Greenidge failed to submit required information about its discharges into Keuka Lake Outlet and Seneca Lake, biological data about the lake, and information about its cooling water system and how it is affecting aquatic life" said Jill Heaps, senior attorney, Earthjustice. "This information is critical to understanding the facility's impact on the environment and evaluating whether the permit should be renewed."
This is not Greenidge's first issue with operating permits. In June 2022, the DEC denied Greenidge's air permit renewal because its operations pose a threat to New York's greenhouse gas emissions reduction requirements. Greenidge is currently appealing the decision, and is allowed to continue business as usual.
New York's historic cryptocurrency mining moratorium, passed in November 2022, implemented a two-year pause on new and renewed air permits for fossil-fueled power plants that mine cryptocurrency - does not apply to Greenidge Generation, which had applied for its air permit before the law took effect.
Proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining is an 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. A recent Guidebook from Earthjustice and the Sierra Club described how from July 2021 to July 2022 Bitcoin mining operations in the U.S. consumed as much electricity as four states combined, emitting as much as 6 million cars annually. The White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy also recently published a groundbreaking report that confirms proof-of-work cryptomining is incompatible with federal and local emissions reductions goals, and it cannot continue unabated.
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 a limited amount of new jobs to the region compared to the existing $3 billion local agritourism economy, employing approximately 60,000 people, while poisoning the Finger Lakes' natural resources.
About Seneca Lake Guardian
Seneca Lake Guardian is a New York State Not-for-Profit Corporation with 501(c)(3) status 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.
Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.