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10.12.21

Greenidge Power Plant’s  Title V Clean Air Permit is Now Up for Renewal Following Plant’s Switch to Crypto-Mining

Senator Says EPA Must Exercise Its Oversight Powers Under The Title V Clean Air Act And Clean Water Act And Closely Review Greenidge’s Cryptocurrency Mining Operations And Increased Emissions

Schumer: Clean Air Is The Most Valuable Currency

A fierce advocate for clean air and environment in New York, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to exercise its oversight powers under the Title V Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act and closely review Greenidge Generation Plant’s permit renewal application.

Schumer explained that the Greenidge plant has been mining cryptocurrency, a type of digital currency, which requires massive amounts of energy, which can lead to increased water and air pollution. While the original Title V clean air permit was issued when the plant intended to generate electricity for the grid during instances of peak demand, the plant has recently begun using its generated electricity for a cryptocurrency mining operation. The senator revealed that since beginning the crypto-mining, the Greenidge plant has increased its recent emissions by tenfold, and that this is only likely to increase as Greenidge expands their mining operations.

“This increase in emissions may bring profits to the plant’s owners, but it does not provide the same pubic good to the surrounding community as if it generated electricity for the grid,” said Senator Schumer. “It warrants EPA taking a fine tooth comb to this air permit review.”

Schumer argued that: “This goes directly against New York and the nation’s clean air goals and therefore I urge the EPA to exercise its full oversight of the Title V Clean Air permit.”

“New York is closer now to achieving its environmental goals than ever before, and we are at a crucial tipping point in determining what kind of water, air, and resources we leave for our children and grandchildren,” Senator Schumer added. “The operations at the Greenidge plant produce pollution that runs counter to our clean air goals. That is why I am calling on the EPA to exercise its oversight and look very closely at the cryptocurrency mining operations at Greenidge, and what this new business model could mean to the environment and public health in communities across New York and the country.”

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that can be traded just the same as a dollar or coin, but it only exists in the digital world. The most prominent cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, which can be “mined” or generated through energy intensive computer software. As Bitcoin has increased in value, individuals and companies have setup increasingly large operations to mine Bitcoin, which in turn need increasing amounts of energy. A majority of the energy being used comes from the grid, which is largely powered by fossil fuels, and recently, miners have begun purchasing defunct, old, or under-used power plants to directly source their power.

Last year, Greenidge Power Plant in Yates County on Seneca Lake owned by Atlas Holdings, started mining Bitcoin, and similar power plant companies are planning to do the same, threatening New York’s clean air goals. Schumer explained that while these operations pollute as much as a normal power plant, their only obvious benefit is generating profit for the owners, as opposed to a normal plant which would provide power for the community’s homes and businesses. Therefore, the senator argued, the EPA should consider the cost-benefit ratio of the Greenridge operation closely as the EPA reviews its permit renewal.

Senator Schumer’s letter to EPA Administrator Regan appears below:

Dear Administrator Regan:

I write to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to exercise its oversight powers in evaluating the renewal of the Title V Clean Air Act permit currently under consideration for the cryptocurrency mining operations at the Greenidge Generation plant (Greenidge) in Dresden, New York. This mining operation represents a new type of business that pollutes like a normal powerplant but does not provide the same public benefit of powering homes and businesses. As such, EPA must take a close look at this permit renewal process and the environmental and public health impact on New Yorkers, and ultimately all Americans.

As you may know, Greenidge was originally licensed through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and EPA as a natural gas-fired power plant, providing energy to the surrounding communities.  Under New York State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), which I supported, power plants like Greenidge will need to phase out over the coming decades. But the Greenidge facility has begun ramping up electricity production in order to meet the energy demand of a new cryptocurrency mining operation underway at the site.  This power is not going to people’s homes, but rather to make a profit for the project’s investors.  Recent research by Earthjustice and Sierra Club indicate that this has increased emissions nearly tenfold. There are also reports that the plant’s ownership plans to continue expanding its cryptocurrency mining operation, which would only further increase emissions, and fly counter to New York’s, and the president’s, climate goals. 

Currently, powerplants like Greenidge are allowed to spew greenhouse gases and some level of particulate matter into the air, and heated water into waterways, because they provide us the public good of powering our homes, businesses and more.  The EPA and NYSDEC regulate such plants to keep these negative impacts on our health and the environment to a minimum, while maximizing the public good. Greenidge’s new business model raises serious concerns because as emissions rise, the public good remains the same.  With the plant’s emissions on the rise, EPA should review both its Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act permits in light of this new mismatch between public good and public impact, and in the context of the presidents’ and New York State’s climate goals. 

Therefore, I urge the EPA to exercise its oversight powers and evaluate Greenidge’s Title V Clean Air Act permit application closely in light of the new cryptocurrency mining operation and its attendant air and water emissions.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to my staff with any questions you may have.

Sincerely,

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