ALBANY, NY (AP) — State officials on Thursday denied air permit renewals required for a bitcoin mining power plant in the Finger Lakes that environmentalists have called a threat to New York’s climate goals.
In rejecting the renewals, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation said “continued operations of Greenidge Generation would be inconsistent with nationwide greenhouse gas emission limits.” State” that New York attempts to uphold under state law.
The company said it would continue to operate under its current license while contesting the decision.
Greenidge, a former coal-fired power plant on Seneca Lake, was converted to natural gas several years ago and began mining bitcoin in earnest in 2020. Proponents say the plant offers a competitive way to mine cryptocurrency without draining the state power grid. .
In a statement, the company insisted there was “no credible legal basis” for the denial.
“It is preposterous for anyone to look at these facts and rationally claim that renewing this specific permit — for a facility that represents a small fraction of the state’s power-generating capacity — would hamper long-term climate goals. New York term. It just wouldn’t be the case,” the company said.
But climate activists who see Greenidge as a test case have called on Governor Kathy Hochul’s administration to deny renewal of the plant’s air quality permit and block similar projects. They argued the fossil fuel plant on Seneca Lake undermined the state’s policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades under its 2019 climate law.
Greenidge harnesses inexpensive power to run the massive computer arrays needed to power-intensive “proof-of-work” cryptocurrency mining – a term for the computational process that records and secures bitcoin transactions and other similar forms of digital money. The plant also feeds into the state power grid.
But in its letter to the company, the DEC said that “instead of helping meet the state’s current electricity needs, as originally described, the facility is operating primarily to meet its own new significant energy load caused by Greenidge PoW cryptocurrency mining operations. In this sense, contrary to the ministry’s previous understanding, the facility creates a significant new energy demand for an entirely new purpose unrelated to its original permit.
Environmentalists rejoiced at the denial.
Yvonne Taylor, vice president of advocacy organization Seneca Lake Guardian, said in a statement: “This is an incredible moment and one that sets a precedent for all who have fought alongside the Finger community. Lakes.”
“Governor Hochul and the DEC have stood with science and the people, and sent a message to outside speculators: New York’s old fossil fuel power plants are not yours to reopen as mining cancers of Gas-guzzling bitcoins on our communities,” Taylor said. in the statement.
The Greenidge controversy pitted environmental groups against the cryptocurrency industry and was seen as a political dilemma for Hochul. The Democratic governor is trying to win broad support as she runs for office in the post she took over last year following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo.
Hochul will also have to decide whether or not to sign a law. which would establish a two-year moratorium on new and renewed aerial permits for fossil-fuel power plants used for proof-of-work mining.
Greenidge is not affected by the first-of-its-kind moratorium, which covers new apps.
Greenidge said that even if the plant was operating at full capacity, its potential emissions were equivalent to 0.23% of the state’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal. The company argued that the plant was 100% carbon neutral, thanks to the purchase of carbon offsets, such as forestry programs and projects that capture methane from landfills.