News from Seneca Lake Guardian:
“As Governor Hochul delays any decision around climate-killing cryptomining, local electeds and voters pledge to vote for candidates who prioritize everyday New Yorkers and the climate over crypto billionaires
DRESDEN, NY (06/17/2022) (readMedia)– Cryptomining has become a flashpoint for democratic voters, as crypto crashes and Governor Hochul delays any decision around climate-killing cryptomining after accepting campaign donations from crypto billionaires and lobbyists. Joining in on the inaction, during this week’s Lieutenant Governor debate, Hochul’s candidate Antonio Delgado said the cryptomining moratorium bill should be “considered,” without taking a position, and claimed to not know the donors to a $1 million SuperPAC supporting him.
Grassroots environmental advocates – with a strong coalition of elected officials, small business owners, and winemakers – successfully beat back millions of dollars in lobbying that the crypto industry spent to kill the cryptomining moratorium bill. Opposition was also fueled by the Koch Brothers’-funded Club for Growth, a group that funds anti-gay, anti-abortion, far right candidates. The Club spent $30,000 to spread lies fighting the bill.
During the June 7 gubernatorial primary debate, Governor Hochul claimed that there is no connection between cryptocurrency industry donations to her campaign and her pending decision about the cryptomining moratorium bill. She said that she is reviewing the bill, and while still refusing to commit to signing the bill, she said: “We have to be very cautious about facilities going into former fossil fuel power plants…I am not interested in doing anything to harm the environment because I have the most ambitious climate law on the books.”
If Governor Hochul means what she says about upholding the CLCPA, she will deny Greenidge’s permits and sign the cryptomining moratorium bill. If she does, she could win back the votes of several prime democrats, including local elected officials, who are pledging not to vote for her in the primary unless she takes decisive action to protect the climate by signing the cryptomining moratorium bill and denying Greenidge Generation’s air permit renewal. Cryptomining is not just setting New York back in its climate goals – it is also a major threat to natural resources and local businesses, especially the Finger Lakes’ $3 billion, 60,000-job agritourism economy.
“Governor Hochul has claimed she’s committed to fighting the climate crisis, but if that’s the case, why hasn’t she taken steps to curb fossil fuel-powered cryptomining? The deluge of cryptomining we’re facing upstate will set us back on our path to carbon neutrality, and I need a governor who will prioritize this very real threat of donations from the scammy crypto industry. If Governor Hochul doesn’t protect upstate by signing the cryptomining moratorium bill and denying Greenidge Generation’s permits, I can’t vote for her,” said Tompkins County Legislator Anne Koreman.
“Last year, voters in every county surrounding Seneca Lake overwhelmingly approved the ballot proposition guaranteeing the right to clean air and water. Protecting our environment is a top priority for upstate New Yorkers, which is why I was so excited to have our first governor in 100 years hail from upstate. Unfortunately, Governor Hochul seems to care more about pleasing her billionaire crypto donors. Reasonable Democrats are losing faith in her every day she fails to act. Personally, I don’t see myself voting for her if she doesn’t sign the cryptomining moratorium and deny Greenidge’s permits before primary day,” said Lodi Town Supervisor Kyle Barnhart.
“I am deeply dismayed that Governor Hochul has not signed this legislation. This bill is a no brainer solution to make sure we meet our CLCPA goals. Furthermore, as a woman of color, I’m disheartened to see her blatant disrespect to native land. This pause allows us to examine the impact of PoW Mining facilities on water and soil. The same water and soils our farmers rely on for our crops and which is critical to our agro tourism industry. My children’s future is on the ballot and I’m am choosing the candidate for governor who puts the planet first,” said Stacey Dimas, Vice-Chair of the Tompkins County Democratic Committee.
“I urge Governor Hochul to show us all that she is a champion for our climate by signing the cryptomining moratorium bill immediately and by denying the new air permits at Greenidge. We cannot meet our climate goals unless we keep our fossil-fuel power plants from coming back online to power crypto mining operations. I am calling on Governor Hochul to do the right thing for our climate and lakes here in Upstate NY. My grandchildren are counting on me to protect their future by being a climate voter at the polls. Like many of my fellow Tompkins County voters, I will be closely watching the Governor’s action on this bill,” said former Tompkins County Legislature Chair, Martha Robertson.
“New York’s economic policy can be one of two things – a driver of sustainable growth, or a driver of climate chaos. Simply put, any decision that brings offline fossil fuel power back online leads us down the wrong path. New York and Governor Hochul cannot claim to be leading the most ambitious climate plan in the country if they permit unchecked demand for dirty energy to fuel the growth of the crypto industry – or any other – in New York. Too often money speaks louder than words, and any politician who allows the interests of a small minority of crypto donors to undermine their climate leadership will lose my support and put our economic and climate future in jeopardy,” said Vanessa Fajans-Turner, former 2022 NY-22 Congressional Candidate.
“Governor Hochul has broken the social contract between the State’s residents who have voted for climate protection and standards, in order to provide jobs to crypto mining businesses that are squatting in former power plant sites around NYS. To risk the livelihoods of thousands of agri-tourism employees in the Finger Lakes who depend on climate protection, in return for pointless crypto assets generated by US oligarchs is a despicable act,” said Ken Camera, Geneva City Council Member. “Accepting donations from these unethical entities shows you too have no social conscience, Gov. Hochul. We have explained the issues to you through thousands of submissions from organizations from around the State. At election time, you will hear our voices if you can’t come back from the dark side.”
“As a Cornell student, Cornell Democrats Vice President, and Tompkins County Democratic Committee Member, I hope that Governor Hochul signs into law Assemblymember Anna Kelles’ bill on cryptocurrency mining here in Upstate NY. These facilities produce absurdly high amounts of carbon emissions and pollute our beautiful Finger Lakes, which are vital to our well-being and our wine and tourism industries. Upstate NY – including many citizens, groups, and counties – is counting on the Governor to sign into law this important piece of legislation. Her decision will affect my vote in the primary,” said Jack Waxman, VP of Cornell Democrats and Member of Tompkins County Democratic Committee.
“I was so excited when Governor Hochul took office with a promise to clean up Albany. Now I’m not so sure anything has changed. She can prove she and her administration can’t be bought by signing the Crypto Moratorium bill before the primary, by having her Department of Environmental Conservation deny Greenidge’s air emissions permit in that timeframe too, and by giving the crypto money back,” said Irene Weiser, Coordinator, Fossil Free Tompkins and former Councilmember, Town of Caroline.
“Governor Hochul claims that she wants to uphold New York’s nation-leading climate law, but she’s setting us back by doing her crypto billionaire donors’ bidding and delaying any decision around cryptomining. Meanwhile, she’s putting a very real, thriving economic engine for the state at risk. New York’s multibillion dollar wine industry has never lost half its value, unlike Greenidge Generation’s climate-killing mining of the crumbling “currency” that’s crashing for the second time in a month. Unless she signs the cryptomining moratorium bill and denies Greenidge’s air permits before primary day, I will be convincing my friends, neighbors, and family to join me in voting for somebody else,” said Michael Warren Thomas, the Voice of the Finger Lakes who has covered the Finger Lakes’ wine and agritourism region for nearly thirty years.
“In Governor Hochul’s recent mailing, she says she will “continue working to implement an aggressive plan to combat climate change.” I find what she defines as “aggressive” to be very weak, because she has yet to sign legislation to establish a moratorium on cryptocurrency mining, which so negatively affects the environment that some countries have banned it. While I appreciate her stances on guns, reproductive rights, and working families, if climate is not addressed, none of those issues will matter. If she cannot establish for me before the primary that she is seriously aggressive in combatting climate change, I’m afraid she will not get my vote,” said Rev. Jane Winters, Honorably Retired, Elmira, NY.
Support for the moratorium bill isn’t only popular among democrats – earlier this week, 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.
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. Recently, Judge Robert A. Onofry affirmed in his decision regarding Danskammer Energy LLC, that Governor Hochul and the DEC have ample authority to deny Greenidge’s permits under the nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
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.
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.”