SENECA COUNTY, NY (06/15/2022) (readMedia)-- Last night, in the first major showings of bipartisan support for a cryptomining moratorium and denial of Greenidge Generation's air permits, Seneca County Republican and Democratic leaders unanimously urged Governor Hochul to stop delaying and protect New York from climate-killing cryptomining. Seneca County is just across Seneca Lake from Yates County, where Greenidge Generation is threatening the climate, natural resources, and local economy. Governor Hochul and the DEC have ample authority to deny Greenidge's permits under the nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, recently affirmed by Judge Robert A. Onofry in his decision regarding Danskammer Energy LLC.
First, last night, the Seneca County Board of Legislators, made up of 13 republicans and one democrat, unanimously voted on a resolution to send a letter to Governor Hochul, introduced by Lodi Town Supervisor Kyle Barnhart. The letter urges her to deny Greenidge Generation's air permit renewal and sign the cryptomining moratorium bill. It reads:
"As a county government, we have taken additional steps to protect our lakes and watersheds. We have passed strict septic inspection laws to improve water quality for Seneca and Cayuga Lakes. We have increased funding for the inter-municipal watershed organizations that advocate for our lakes so that they can have the greatest possible impact. We are holding up our end of the deal to protect our environment and honor the state's climate goals. We ask that you hold up the state's end of the deal by denying Greenidge Generation's air permit applications and signing the bill that issues a moratorium on these kinds of cryptocurrency operations."
Read the full text of the resolution and letter below and attached.
Following the meeting, Seneca County Republican Committee Chairman Thomas Fox and Democratic Party Committee Chairman David Wood issued a joint statement calling for the same:
"As the chairmen of the Seneca County Republican Committee and the Seneca County Democratic Committee, we do not agree on much. However, when it comes to protecting Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake, we are united. We come together today in this bipartisan effort to call on Governor Hochul and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to deny the air permits for Greenidge Generation's cryptocurrency power plant in Dresden, New York.
The Finger Lakes are our most valuable resource and provide clean drinking water to hundreds of thousands of residents in the region. While we are both proudly pro-business, there comes a point where the exploitation of our natural resources goes too far. The continued operation of Greenidge Generation's cryptocurrency mining operation threatens the health of Seneca Lake and is not consistent with the character of our communities or the nature of our thriving tourism industry. The Greenidge plant offers no practical benefit to the residents of Seneca County and its continued operation will only harm the residents and visitors that cherish the lake as we do.
The Seneca County Board of Supervisors has also acted, passing an unanimous, bipartisan resolution that calls on Governor Hochul and NYSDEC Commissioner Seggos to deny the expired air permits and shutter the plant for good. We, as county party leaders, affirm their action and ask our state leaders to honor the wishes of the people of Seneca County by denying Greenidge's air permit applications. It is not often that we find common ground, but we hope that the governor takes notice that we stand united in Seneca County in preserving the wonder and beauty of the Finger Lakes."
"The people of this state have overwhelmingly supported strong action on climate issues-even rural, Republican Seneca County voted in favor of the clean air and water amendment last year. And now, my county board stands unanimously against Greenidge Generation's absurd exploitation of our wonderful lake. Governor Hochul must stop delaying and take action against cryptomining now." said Kyle Barnhart, Lodi Town Supervisor & Seneca County Board of Supervisors.
Earlier this week, as Bitcoin hit an 18-month low and crypto companies laid off employees, Crains reported that New York City Mayor Eric Adams will ask Governor Hochul to veto the cryptomining moratorium bill, going back on a February 2022 statement where he said he opposed cryptomining. Mayor Adams raised at least $200,000 from crypto interests between 2018 and 2021.
Mayor Adams isn't the only New York leader doing his crypto donors' bidding. As Governor Hochul continues to delay any decision around cryptomining, she has accepted campaign donations from crypto billionaires, who are also spending millions on a SuperPAC to support her Lieutenant Governor candidate, as well as on lobbyists.
"We know Governor Hochul can move quickly when she wants to, evidenced by the urgency she's shown recently around gun control and abortion rights. Why isn't she showing the same urgency around climate change, which she's said is a crisis? If Governor Hochul is actually committed to protecting the environment, our $3 billion, 60,000-job agritourism economy, and upholding the nation-leading CLCPA, she won't wait to sign the cryptomining moratorium bill or further delay denying Greenidge Generation's air permits. Finger Lakes Republicans and Democrats are counting on her to put everyday New Yorkers first, not big money, crypto billionaires," said Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Seneca Lake Guardian.
The cryptomining moratorium bill will establish a two-year moratorium on new and renewed permits for proof-of-work cryptomining operations housed at fossil fuel-burning power plants. The bill will also require the Department of Environmental Conservation to perform a full environmental impact assessment in a year's time on cryptomining operations and how they affect New York's ability to meet the climate goals mandated in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
This legislation will not affect permit applications that have already been submitted or cryptomining plants that are already operating, of which there are many in New York. After being banned in China, outside speculators are flocking to New York to take advantage of a complete lack of regulations. New York now hosts 20% of the country's proof-of-work cryptomining - the most of any state, despite the economic risks associated with cryptomining and cryptocurrency, as advocacy groups Strong Economy for All and Action Center and Race and Economy suggest.
The test case for cryptomining in New York is Greenidge Generation.
Located on the shores of Seneca Lake, Greenidge operates over 17,000 Bitcoin mining machines and is expanding to over 32,500, with visible smokestacks pumping dirty fossil fuels into the air 24/7. This will lead to over 1 million tons of CO2 emissions each year, equal to that of 100,000 homes. Greenidge also sucks up to 139 million gallons of water each day from Seneca Lake and dumps it back in at up to 108 degrees. Gregory Boyer, director of SUNY's Great Lakes Research Consortium, has warned about Greenidge's potential to cause harmful algal blooms, which can be dangerous or fatal to humans and other animals in Seneca Lake, and make this water source for 100,000 people non-potable.
Greenidge's air permits are up for renewal by Governor Hochul and the DEC, who have given themselves five additional months to make a decision. The new deadline is June 30, two days after the gubernatorial primary. The DEC has consistently cited the need to sift through 4,000 public comments as part of the reason for this delay, but researchers from Cornell University FOILed for the comments, and found that 98% of the comments are opposed to Greenidge. In addition, more than 1,000 local businesses, organizations, winermakers, labor unions, and more have taken action against Greenidge because of the threats its air, water, and noise pollution pose to the local $3 billion, 60,000-employee agritourism economy.
Advocates warn that a renewal of Greenidge's air permits would signal to more outside speculators that New York is welcoming gas guzzling Bitcoin mining threats to local businesses and cancers on communities.
The DEC has already confirmed that Greenidge is a threat to New York's energy goals as outlined in the state's Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. In a recent story, "DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos told WSKG that he continues to have "significant concerns" whether Greenidge Generation's operations will be compliant with the state's statutory climate goals under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, or CLCPA." Seggos later said, "Our belief still stands that this is a facility that's going to have an uphill battle complying with the law."
And at a recent Environmental Conservation budget hearing when asked about the potential impact of the escalating cryptocurrency mining activity in upstate NY on the states energy grid, the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) President Doreen Harris stated, "There could be a very significant impact on NY load resulting from cryptocurrency mining depending on the penetration of the resource."
Proof-of-work cryptocurrency is an extremely 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 run cooling technology. Globally, proof-of-work Bitcoin mining uses the same amount of energy each day as the entire country of Argentina. It produces 30,700 metric tons of e-waste each year, comparable to the yearly IT equipment waste of the Netherlands.
More than 1,000 organizations, businesses, environmental activists, concerned residents, wine makers, elected officials, and more have taken action over the last year in opposition to Greenidge and crypto mining in New York State. NYC Comptroller Brad Lander sent a letter to NYS Leadership expressing strong support for a cryptomining moratorium. A letter sent to Governor Hochul in October was signed by more than 650 individuals and groups. In letters to Governor Cuomo last year opposing Greenidge Generation's expansion from an emergency peaker plant to a 24/7 Bitcoin mining operation, organizations, businesses, and Finger Lakes residents demanded Gov. Cuomo revoke Greenidge's grandfathered-in permits. And recently, several groups sent an open letter to Senators Gillibrand and Schumer urging them to visit the Finger Lakes and meet the residents and business owners whose livelihoods are suffering the environmental and economic consequences of Greenidge.
Advocates are also calling on Governor Hochul to put a moratorium on cryptomining through executive action. The Governor is well within her legal authority to act, according to a new white paper from Columbia Law School Sabin Center for Climate Change Law: A Pause on Proof-Of-Work: The New York State Executive Branch's Authority to Enact a Moratorium on the Permitting of Consolidated Proof of Work Cryptocurrency Mining Facilities. The paper (summary of findings available here) draws on precedent established in 2010 when the executive branch signed the fracking moratorium. It finds the Governor has authority to stop new proof-of-work cryptomining operations by enacting a moratorium on the permitting of these facilities until a Generic Environmental Impact Statement (GEIS) to determine the full extent of the impacts of mining on communities is complete.
Cryptomining is at odds with the overwhelmingly popular amendment to the New York state constitution passed last year, which guarantees every New Yorker the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthful environment. Revitalizing old polluting power plants for private financial gain, with drastic consequences for our air, water and climate, all while causing huge amounts of noise pollution, is now unconstitutional - and ought to be treated as such.
Reform groups Common Cause/NY and NYPIRG have specifically criticized the crypto mining industry for exploiting public resources and straining the energy grid for private gain, and a group of federal lawmakers led by Senator Elizabeth Warren requested details from six major Bitcoin mining companies about their electricity usage and contributions to climate change. The NY League of Conservation voters sent a letter to Governor Hochul urging her to pause and regulate cryptomining, and 1199 SEIU recently announced their endorsement of a cryptomining moratorium. Earlier this year, President Biden issued an executive order requiring federal agencies study the legal, economic, and environmental impacts of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin mining.
SENECA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
IMPLORE GOVERNOR HOCHUL TO DENY PERMITS & ISSUE MORATORIUM FOR
GREENIDGE GENERATION CRYPTOCURRENCY OPERATIONS
WHEREAS, Seneca County has taken additional steps to protect our lakes and watersheds and have passed strict septic inspection laws to improve water quality for Seneca and Cayuga Lakes; and
WHEREAS, we have increased funding for the inter-municipal watershed organizations that advocate for our lakes so that they can have the greatest possible impact; and
WHEREAS, the Seneca County Board of Supervisors is concerned with the lack of action and delayed deadlines for denying the renewal of air permits for Greenidge Generation's power plant in Dresden, New York; and
WHEREAS, this resolution was introduced to the Board of Supervisor pursuant to Rules of Order #29; now therefore be it
RESOLVED, that a letter be sent to Governor Hochul to uphold the constitutional amendment that guarantees New Yorkers the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthful environment by denying Greenidge Generation's air permit applications and signing the bill that issues a moratorium on these kinds of cryptocurrency operations.
June 14, 2022
Dear Governor Hochul and Commissioner Seggos:
The Seneca County Board of Supervisors is concerned with the lack of action and delayed deadlines for denying the renewal of air permits for Greenidge Generation's power plant in Dresden, New York.
As we wrote in our October 2020 letter to NYSDEC Acting Regional Director Timothy Walsh, we continue to unanimously oppose the continued operation of the cryptocurrency mining operation on Seneca Lake.
As a county government, we have taken additional steps to protect our lakes and watersheds. We have passed strict septic inspection laws to improve water quality for Seneca and Cayuga Lakes. We have increased funding for the inter-municipal watershed organizations that advocate for our lakes so that they can have the greatest possible impact. We are holding up our end of the deal to protect our environment and honor the state's climate goals. We ask that you hold up the state's end of the deal by denying Greenidge Generation's air permit applications and signing the bill that issues a moratorium on these kinds of cryptocurrency operations.
Since our 2020 letter, the people of the State of New York have spoken out loudly and clearly that they expect swift action from their elected leaders on environmental issues. They've spoken at the ballot box by passing a constitutional amendment that guarantees New Yorkers the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthful environment. Seneca County residents approved the amendment by a wide margin. We are united, bipartisan, and unanimous in asking you to deny the permits, sign the bill, and protect Seneca Lake from further exploitation.
Robert W. Hayssen, Chairman
Michael Enslow, Majority Leader
Kyle Barnhart, Minority Leader
Paul Kronwenwetter, Chairman, Environmental Affairs Committee
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, COUNTY OF SENECA
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.