ALBANY, NY - Legislation (A7389B/S6486C) to place a 3-year moratorium on Bitcoin mining in New York State is picking up steam in the Assembly with 41wisp co-sponsors including 15 senior-ranking Assembly committee chairs as of February 24. Just last week, the bill – which is sponsored by first-term Assemblymember Anna Kelles – added two powerful lawmakers who chair relevant committees with oversight authority: Amy Paulin Chair of the Committee on Corporations, Authorities, and Commissions, and Ken Zebrowski, Chair of the Committee on Government Operations.
“In a time when the global collective of climate scientists through the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are stating that we have 8 more years to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we cannot afford to massively increase our global emissions with a digital mining industry that harms many and benefits the few,” said Assemblymember Anna Kelles. “Given that there are methods of validating cryptocurrency transactions that use a tiny fraction of Proof-of-Work cryptocurrency mining, we can not only excel as a cryptocurrency capital if that is the will of the people, but we can do it without courting this mining industry in our state at the incredible cost of our clean air, water, and climate. I am deeply honored to join with my colleagues, including Assembly Members Paulin and Zebrowski, to establish a moratorium on crypto mining and require a full environmental assessment of its impact in the interest of our state’s environmental goals.”
On Thursday, Gothamist published an extensive story about the threat of crypto mining to New York’s energy goals as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Referring specifically to the Greenidge Generation peaker plant that’s been operating as a 24/7 Bitcoin mining operation under grandfathered in air permits, the Department of Environmental Conservation cast doubts about continuing operations:
“The air [permit] application does not currently meet the requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act,” the state Department of Environmental Conservation wrote in an email to Gothamist. “Notably it has not shown that it is consistent or would not interfere with the attainment of statewide greenhouse gas emission limits; nor has it provided sufficient justification or identified alternative or sufficient mitigation.”
In a recent Environmental Conservation budget hearing when asked about the potential impact of the escalating cryptocurrency mining activity in upstate NY on the state’s 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.”
Advocates have been pushing the Governor for months to impose a moratorium on crypto mining in New York State, currently home to 20% of the nation’s crypto mining. 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 recently requested details from six major Bitcoin mining companies about their electricity usage and contributions to climate change. Even the Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, an avid crypto booster has come out against mining, declaring on February 9th to a joint session of the Legislature: “I support cryptocurrency, not crypto mining.”
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.
There are 49 decommissioned or underutilized power plants across the state, phasing out as New York reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, that could again guzzle fossil fuels – this time for their own private interests without any public benefit. If left unregulated, the industry will wreak irrevocable harm on the entire state of New York, making it impossible to reach New York's crucial climate goals as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). The CLCPA commits to an 85% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 and 100% zero-emission electricity by 2040.
Crypto mining is also at odds with the overwhelmingly popular amendment to the 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.
Greenidge Generation is the test case for the rapidly growing Bitcoin mining industry in New York.
Located on the shores of Seneca Lake, Greenidge is a once-mothballed power plant that has been converted into a bitcoin mine by the private equity firm that owns it. Greenidge operates over 17,000 Bitcoin mining machines and is expanding to over 32,500, pumping dirty fossil fuels into the air 24/7. This will lead to over one million tons of CO2 emissions each year, equal to that of 100,000 homes. Greenidge also sucks 139 million gallons of water each day from Seneca Lake and dumps it back in at 108 degrees, risking toxic algal blooms that make this water source for 100,000 people non-potable. The plant brings very few new jobs to the region while poisoning the air and natural resources the local $3 billion agritourism economy relies on.
The DEC's decision on Greenidge's air permit renewal was expected by January 31, but it was pushed back two months, allowing it to continue harming the community and expanding its operations. Greenidge is the test case for the rapidly growing Bitcoin mining industry in New York.
More than 1,000 organizations, businesses, environmental activists, concerned residents, wine makers, elected officials, and more have acted over the last year in opposition to crypto mining in New York State. 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 permits due to its massive greenhouse gas emissions, poisoning of the Finger Lakes, and noise pollution, with no economic benefit to the community. Greenidge Generation is still operating in Dresden, NY under grandfathered-in permits granted for use as a peaker plant, not 24/7 Bitcoin mining. Greenidge has applied for an air permit renewal and is awaiting a decision from the Department of Environmental Conservation. Similar fights have occurred in Plattsburgh and Niagara Falls, which resulted in local moratoriums.