Why Should You Care About Cryptocurrency Mining?
Some forms of cryptocurrency mining are extremely energy intensive. It can use the same amount of energy as entire countries like Argentina.
Parts of China and India are considering banning Bitcoin, for example, because it is hampering their climate goals, and taking power away from the public to use for private Bitcoin operations.
The Greenidge facility along the shores of Seneca Lake in the heart of the Finger Lakes is the test case for Bitcoin in New York. This once mothballed coal-fired plant sat dormant for 7 years before it was repurposed to burn natural gas to supply power to the grid in times of high demand. Finding that unprofitable, the owners installed 7,900 Bitcoin machines. This increased their air emissions ten-fold. Now, their plan is to expand 25-fold, using at least 500 megawatts of power along Seneca and elsewhere by 2025.
Bitcoin operators search for areas with cheap power sources or power plants that are not operating at full capacity to install Bitcoin mining machines. In a letter sent to Governor Cuomo, the environmental law group Earthjustice and the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club warned that nearly 30 other upstate New York power plants could be converted to run full-time as data centers, with catastrophic consequences for statewide CO2-equivalent emissions.
Currently, there is no state or federal oversight of cryptocurrency mining operations. Because many miners are generating power for private use, thus operating “behind the meter” (by not supplying power to the grid for public consumption), it completely evades New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. No one is immune to the impacts of climate change. Repowering or expanding coal or gas plants to burn more fossil fuels in the middle of a climate crisis to make fake money is literally insane.
In addition, power plants use more water than any other industry. With billions of gallons of water being used each day produce electricity, thermoelectric power plants have been the largest water users in the country since 1965. Most of the water used in thermoelectric power generation is for cooling and condensing the steam at power plants.
In once-through cooling systems, like the Greenidge facility’s on Seneca Lake, water is withdrawn from nearby bodies of water, diverted through a condenser where it absorbs heat from the steam, and then discharged back to its original source at higher temperatures. Because once-through cooling systems do not recycle the cooling water, this leads to incredibly high volumes of daily water withdrawals. The water intake structures at power plants with once-through cooling can kill billions of fish annually, and the thermal discharge downstream can also harm aquatic organisms. In addition, the large volume of water required to operate once-through cooling systems makes power plants especially vulnerable in times of drought and extreme heat. Regulations on new power plants prohibit the use of oncethrough cooling, but many of the older facilities continue to operate with these less efficient systems. In a time of growing water contamination and water scarcity, this aspect cannot be overlooked.
Cryptocurrency mining is not a job creator, as the machines are fully automated. At risk, however, are the jobs that rely on clean air and water, like farms, wineries, and other tourism related occupations. In the Finger Lakes region, the agri-tourism industry generates $3 Billion for New York State annually, and supports 58,0000 jobs.
What can Communities in New York Do?
Ask your state legislators to support S6486/A7389, which would place a moratorium on any new or expanding Bitcoin operations in the state of NY until a comprehensive study of the industry and its impacts can be fully evaluated.
Call Governor Cuomo: (518)-474-8390. Tell him that unregulated “behind the meter'' Bitcoin operations completely evade his Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), and that he must direct his DEC to deny Greenidge’s Title V air permit renewal.