Seneca Lake Guardian Responds to Greenidge's False Attempts to Protect Seneca Lake
DRESDEN, NY (12/28/2022) (readMedia)-- This morning, Greenidge Generation announced that it is finally installing the wedgewire screens that the DEC required the plant to install over five years ago in order to protect the lake's aquatic life from being sucked up and blended by the plant's water intake pipe. This type of screen was deemed necessary based on studies completed in 2010, before Greenidge started burning fracked gas 24/7/365 to mine Bitcoin. These screens will only be 77% effective, but 100% effective technology (closed-cycle cooling) exists. Greenidge just isn't installing it.
Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian, issued the following statement in response:
"As Greenidge's stock price continues to plummet, they're boasting that they're installing less-than-optimal technology after waiting until the eleventh hour. They were given 5 years to install protective screens and they dragged their heels until their permit expired- it's ridiculous.
"If Greenidge really loved Seneca Lake, it would at least have done more studies on preventing toxic levels of Mercury and other contaminants from being dredged up from the lake bottom during construction or better yet, invested in the best technology available that would actually protect the lake and its aquatic life. Frankly, Greenidge could just save itself from deeper financial ruin and future denied permits - and truly protect Seneca Lake - by stopping mining Bitcoin, a tanking ponzi scheme, altogether."
Even with the best technology available to protect fish from being blended by Greenidge's water intake pipes, Greenidge would still pose a threat to Seneca Lake. According to a study conducted between June 2021 and April 2022, massive discharges of warmed water from Greenidge into Keuka Outlet and Seneca Lake exceeded state water quality standards. Warm water discharges tend to kill or disrupt fish and other aquatic life, and they contribute to toxic algal blooms that poison lake water - making it completely undrinkable and unusable.
This Fall, on behalf of Seneca Lake Guardian, Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, Fossil Free Tompkins, and Sierra Club - Atlantic Chapter, Earthjustice sent a letter to the EPA requesting the agency intervene in the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit review for Greenidge Generation. The letter outlines the many issues with Greenidge Generation's effect on Seneca Lake and its permit application. In addition to the ineffectiveness of wedgewire screens, the letter addresses:
- The application does not reflect the plant's material change in operations from a power plant producing energy for public benefit into a 24/7 cryptomining plant that creates virtual, speculative "currency" only to make rich people richer.
- Greenidge's constant hot water discharge (the plant dumps water into the lake up to 108 degrees) is allowed based on a 45-year old study, and there has not been enough research to determine the effects this discharge is having on Seneca Lake.
- Dredging is expected to take place in an area where the lake bottom has high levels of toxic contaminants like mercury and lead in the sediment.
- The current permit allows Greenidge to discharge mercury into Seneca Lake at levels much higher than New York's mercury water quality standard.
- The DEC should have already involved the EPA in reviewing Greenidge's permit renewal application under New York law.
Meanwhile, Bitcoin has plummeted this year, and the crypto industry is imploding. Greenidge is in financial ruin, losing $44 million so far this year as its stock tanked more than 95% (down to $0.26/share today). Last week, Greenidge announced that it will host Bitcoin mining for its lender, rather than mining its own Bitcoin, in order to pay back its $74 million debt. This came after 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.
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.
Gothamist 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) and more harm to Seneca Lake.
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.
In September, the White House 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.
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."
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.