Just weeks after both houses of the New York State legislature finally passed an environmental-conservation moratorium on new cryptocurrency mining operations (as previously reported by ELM here: New York is Ready to Attack Crypto Mining), the Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) announced its long-awaited decision concerning the air permit renewal application by a former coal-fired plant near Seneca Lake. The facility, purchased and refurbished by Greenidge Generation to run an extensive crypto mining business, has been dependent on roughly 17,000 servers. As previously addressed by ELM here: Crypto: A Virtual Currency with Real-Life Energy Consequences, such extensive mining operations at the facility consumed an extraordinary amount of energy, as is typical for the crypto mining businesses which have been springing up upstate over the past few years. The resulting dramatically increased demand on the electrical grid led to thousands of complaints made by local individuals, businesses, and environmental groups to the NYSDEC, just as Greenidge’s initial 2016 permit was set to expire towards the end of 2021.
The NYSDEC, however, declined to renew the permit on the basis that the plant, under the new emissions permit, would vastly increase its emissions. Although the new permit application did not indicate Greenidge would not generate any new power, it indicated Greenidge intended on running the plant turbine at increased levels, but failed to explain why. As a result, NYSDEC concluded, the plant would act as a threat to New York’s ability to comply with New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which requires that the state cut its emissions by 85% by 2050. “We are applying a new law to a new operation which had significant increases in emissions—almost tripling emissions,” a NYSDEC spokesperson explained. “The company itself was unable to demonstrate that it could come into compliance with the law.” (https://www.politico.com/news/2022/06/30/hochul-administration-moves-to-shut-gas-powered-cryptocurrency-plant-00043497.)
For its part, Greenidge denies the accuracy of the state’s conclusion and is appealing the decision—which it has until the end of July to do—by requesting an administrative adjudicatory hearing. In the meantime, it will operate as it has been operating under its original Title V air permit.
With gas prices at record highs, a ferocious heat wave currently covering the globe, and a seeming lack of will across the planet to curtail the use of fossil fuels, some view New York’s hesitation on expanding the crypto mining industry as too little, too late. Environmentalists and upstate residents, however, are viewing NYSDEC’s decision as a victory. Regardless, only time will tell whether crypto mining companies like Greenidge will adapt their operations to New York’s more local climate goals or whether the industry will settle down in a friendlier state.