DRESDEN, NY (12/08/2022) (readMedia)-- Today Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation in the United States Senate called the Crypto-Asset Environmental Transparency Act. Seneca Lake Guardian, a New York based environmental rights organization that led the fight to pass a first in the nation moratorium on fossil fuel based cryptomining, worked closely with the Senator and applauded the bill. From the press release:
The legislation would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct a comprehensive impact study of U.S. cryptomining activity and require the reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cryptomining operations that consume more than 5 megawatts of power. In the United States, Bitcoin crypto-asset mining facilities use up to 1.4% of domestic electricity-the same as the electricity needed to light every home in the country, producing as much GHG emissions as seven million gasoline-powered cars. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is a cosponsor.
"Big-money cryptomining companies are undermining decades of progress in our fight against climate change by putting profits over the promise of our clean energy future – jeopardizing the reliability and safety of our grid in the process and making it all the more likely for utilities to raise energy prices on working families," said Senator Markey. "Ensuring cryptomining companies report their greenhouse gas emissions is a necessary step toward holding them accountable and protecting communities across the country that rely on the grid to heat their homes, cook their food, and go about their daily lives."
"In New York, we just successfully won a first-in-the-nation moratorium on fossil fuel-powered cryptomining. And earlier this year, we won our campaign to get the air permit denied for Greenidge Generation, a massive Bitcoin mine wreaking havoc on Seneca Lake, our local economy, and the climate. But the cryptomining industry is growing rapidly, threatening communities across the country. This can't be a town-by-town or state-by-state fight. We need federal action on climate-killing cryptomining, and Senator Markey's legislation is a great start," said Yvonne Taylor, Vice President, Seneca Lake Guardian.
Last Spring, Seneca Lake Guardian travelled to other states to meet with crypto mining impacted communities and later founded the National Coalition Against Crypto mining. The coalition currently consists of other organizations and communities in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Montana, Tennessee, Texas, and Kentucky. People impacted by crypto mining are encouraged to contact Seneca Lake Guardian for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In September, the Office of Science and Technology Policy released a report about the cryptomining industry's climate threats and the need for regulation. But cryptomining continues to grow rapidly across the country. Earthjustice and the Sierra Club recently released a new Guidebook, finding that from July 2021-22 Bitcoin mining in the U.S. alone consumed as much electricity as four states combined, emitting 27.4 million tons of CO2 - equivalent to the emissions of as much as 6 million cars annually.
Located on the shores of Seneca Lake, Greenidge Generation 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 only 48 new jobs to the region, while poisoning the Finger Lakes' natural resources. Greenidge also sucks 139 million gallons of water each day from Seneca Lake and dumps it back in at up to 108 degrees, risking toxic algal blooms that could make this water source for 100,000 people non-potable.
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied Greenidge's air permit renewal in June stating that the facility poses a threat to the state's climate goals. But Greenidge is still operating and even expanding as it appeals the DEC's decision. It's also attempting to renew its water permit without having met the conditions of its expired water permit.
Gothamist recently reported, "The company has added about 10,000 computers and mined about 300 bitcoins in July alone, which would be worth more than $6 million. Their hash rates, a unit of how much power the bitcoin network is using, increased by nearly 70% over the last four months." The added computers mean more greenhouse gas emissions (it's on track to emit at least as much as 100,000 homes), more harm to Seneca Lake (a new study confirms that Greenidge's operations are warming the lake).
Meanwhile, Bitcoin has plummeted 65% this year, and the crypto industry is imploding. Greenidge is in financial ruin, losing $44 million so far this year as its stock tanked 95% (down to $0.49/share this week). The company's CEO abruptly stepped down. Other Bitcoin miners have been similarly struggling - Compute North recently filed for bankruptcy, and TeraWulf Inc., which operates a Bitcoin mining facility in New York, has seen its stock fall more than 90% this year.
Greenidge isn't the only cryptomining operation threatening New York's climate goals while harming New Yorkers and creating few jobs but big profits for an out-of-state corporation. In September, the New York Public Service Commission approved the sale of the Fortistar North Tonawanda power plant (FNT) to Digihost, a Canadian cryptomining company. Digihost has already been mining Bitcoin at the facility using power sourced from the grid, and is now one step closer to generating its own power with fracked gas for proof-of-work cryptomining. Over the last five years, FNT has only produced energy as a peaker plant between 2% and 13% of the time, emitting relatively small amounts of CO2 and other harmful air pollutants. Now Digihost will be able to pursue operating 24/7/365, multiplying its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 3000%, all while the rest of New York works to drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
Proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining is an extremely 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. Globally, Bitcoin mining consumes more energy each year than the entire country of Argentina. In the U.S. alone, Bitcoin mining produces an estimated 40 billion pounds of carbon emissions each year. Cryptocurrency mining facilities are major emitters of air pollutants. And when cryptocurrency miners rely on the public grid, they can stick everyday people 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."
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.
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.