DRESDEN, N.Y. (WROC) — A former Finger Lakes coal plant, which is now a Bitcoin mining facility, has applied for a permit renewal to continue its operation in New York state.
Permits for the Greenidge Generating station, located along Seneca Lake in Yates County, expired this week. With the permit application submitted, New York officials will consider the extension, renewal, or termination of the operation.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is holding a hearing on the Greenidge permit, scheduled for October 13, and members of the public have until October to submit written statements.
One group hoping the state will deny the permit is New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).
Commonly known as “Bitcoin mining,” Greenidge converted the plant for proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining, more commonly known as “Bitcoin mining.”
NYPIRG officials say the cryptocurrency practice consumes a tremendous amount of energy and is detrimental to the environment. According to the New York Times, Bitcoin mining consumes more electricity than the entire county of Finland, which is almost 0.5% of all electricity consumption worldwide.
“This is the first test to determine if New York state is serious about meeting its critical climate goals when it comes to the threat of Bitcoin mining: The permits for the Greenidge Bitcoin mining facility must be resoundingly denied,” said Liz Moran, NYPIRG Environmental Policy Director. “Not only does New York’s Climate Law mandate net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, but the law also has a specific goal for energy reduction. Should proof-of-work Bitcoin mining be allowed to grow in New York, there is no doubt that the climate goals would be unachievable. NYPIRG urges the Department to reject the permits for the Greenidge facility and for Governor Hochul to institute a statewide moratorium on proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining until a full environmental review is conducted.”
Other environmental groups are also calling on the state to deny the permit renewal, including the waterkeeper alliance group Seneca Lake Guardian. Officials from the environmental advocacy group say:
“The facility that is wreaking environmental havoc on the Finger Lakes Region. Greenidge Generation is polluting the Finger Lakes’ water and air, harming wildlife and affecting farm cultivation across the region with dangerously high carbon emissions which impacts the region’s $3 billion wine-tourism industry.”
According to Seneca Lake Guardian, the plant was using more than 14 megawatts of power — enough to power 9,000 homes — to mine Bitcoin every day.
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said Wednesday that Greenidge has not show compliance with New York’s climate law:
Atlas Holdings LLC purchased the Greenidge plant in 2014 and converted it from a coal-fired operation to one that uses natural gas which reopened in 2017. According to the company’s website:
“Greenidge operates entirely within all relevant permits and local ordinances for its facility, including a State Pollution Discharge Elimination System water permit and a Title V Air Permit. Greenidge operates entirely on natural gas, resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and the company has invested heavily in reliable, verifiable carbon offset credits to ensure it maintains net-zero carbon emissions in its bitcoin transaction processing operations.
The Greenidge facility provides a clean, reliable source of power to New York state’s energy grid: powering up to 20,000 homes and businesses in the region. Following an assessment of demand levels from the state’s energy grid, Greenidge launched its first commercial bitcoin transaction processing operation in 2020.
Greenidge has worked closely with its local community to ensure its operation is both environmentally sound and supportive of the community’s energy and economic needs.”
There’s also the economic impact along with the environmental. According to the company, Greenidge has supported approximately 200 indirect and direct jobs in New York pertaining to “construction and related industries, with more than $13 million in employee earnings. Additionally, the company says it supported more than 80 businesses in the Finger Lakes region during the pandemic.
And while the company faces a public hearing for permit renewal, the business is already eyeing expansion. In June of this year, company officials announced it would expand its operations beyond New York into a South Carolina facility that will “will source the majority of its power from zero-carbon sources.”
According to Greenrige officials, the company has been and will continue to be in full compliance of state environmental regulations. In a statement to News 8 Thursday officials said:
“Greenidge’s application for renewal of our existing Title V air permit has been deemed complete by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and a Draft Permit is being published pursuant to the normal process for public comment. Our existing Title V permit remains in effect, and our operation in Dresden is not impacted by this standard renewal process. Our application does not involve any major modifications to our facility or change to our current operation.
Since resuming operations in 2017, Greenidge has fully complied with our state-issued air and water permits and taken additional steps beyond that to improve the environment we share. Our facility’s operation today, which sends a significant amount of the power we generate to the Grid to support New York homes and businesses, is not generating any air emissions that are not subject to the terms and conditions of our existing Title V permit.
The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) set important statewide targets relating to greenhouse gas reduction relative to a 1990 baseline. We support those goals at Greenidge and will continue to do our part to help the state meet them.
Even if our facility were to run at its full permitted capacity, our potential emissions equate to only approximately 0.23% of the State’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2030 under the CLCPA.
Our current onsite and upstream potential CO2e emissions are already substantially lower than the facility’s actual emissions in 1990, due to the step we took in partnership with the State to eliminate coal-fired operations. We have also identified several new projects that have the potential to provide additional aggregate GHG emissions reductions — off our current operation — of over 40%.
Greenidge is believed to be the first and only bitcoin mining operation of scale in the United States that is 100% carbon neutral. We are proud of our environmental stewardship in both power generation and bitcoin mining, and of our growing role as a job creator and vital economic engine for Upstate New York.
We thank the NYSDEC for its review of our application and look forward to working with the Department to complete this process and create the strongest renewed permit possible.”
NYSDEC officials issued the following statement to News 8 Thursday regarding the permit renewal process:
“On Sept. 1, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) determined that draft renewal Title IV (Acid Rain) and Title V air permits for Greenidge Generation were ready to be issued for public review and comment. DEC released the draft permits for public comment on Sept. 8, and will hold virtual public comment hearings at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Oct. 13, 2021.
DEC has not made a determination regarding the final issuance of permits to Greenidge Generation. While sufficient information has been submitted to begin the required public review, at this time the applicant has not demonstrated compliance with the requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, including requirements regarding greenhouse gas emissions.
This is the first step in DEC’s public process for this project and the public is encouraged to submit comments on the draft permits by Oct. 22, 2021. Before making a final decision on the draft permits, DEC will thoroughly review all comments received and any additional information submitted by the applicant. Since Greenidge Generation applied to renew these required air permits, DEC has conducted a rigorous review of application materials and requested additional information. “
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.