VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — Concerns over cryptocurrency mining’s environmental impacts were back in the state Assembly Wednesday.
Lawmakers convened several panels of activists, policy experts, local officials and labor representatives to discuss their interpretation of the potential impacts cryptocurrency mining may have on the state’s climate goals under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA).
“Is it or is it not an energy hog. If it is, if it’s undermining our climate goals then we need to take a really, really careful look at it, including saying no,” Russ Haven, legislative counsel for New York Public Interest Research Group told lawmakers.
Last year, Assemblymember Anna Kelles (D-125) introduced legislation that would’ve placed a temporary moratorium on cryptocurrency mining. The push was largely in reaction to plans by Greenidge Generation, a natural gas burning power plant along Seneca Lake in Yates County, which received approval to expand its Bitcoin mining capacity earlier this year.
Kelles’ push met resistance from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in the final days of last session and the bill was never taken up on the Assembly floor.
“I think a moratorium would send a chilling effect through the economy and halt economic development all across the state,” Addie Jenne, a lobbyist for the IBEW and former Assemblymember, testified in Wednesday’s hearing.
Earlier this month, representatives from the IBEW spoke during a public hearing with the DEC* over renewal of Greenidge’s Title V air permit effectively indicating their continued support of cryptocurrency mining.
The electrical workers union’s opposition may pose a roadblock to environmental groups and others pushing legislation for the moratorium.
“There’s so much better things we can do with the workers and the workforce in western New York and in building a movement, a movement, but with all to fight the energy crisis,” Fred Pfeiffer, a retired union organizer testified alongside Jenne.
Representatives of several environmental advocacy groups like Food and Water Watch, EarthJustice and the Sierra Club also testified Wednesday.
They included Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Seneca Lake Guardian. Taylor held a press conference ahead of the hearing responding to letters sent to her by Greenidge, which she deemed a legal threat.
Dale Irwin, CEO of Greenidge Generation CEO, wrote in one of the letters: “Your continuing effort, by contrast, to intentionally deceive the public by outright lying about our company’s operation, its compliance with the law and the amazing people who work at our company is no longer acceptable. Should it continue, we will explore pursuit of any and all legal remedies available to our company.”
Taylor said she, and a second activist who also received the letters, has retained legal counsel, but does not intend to change how she speaks about her opposition to the plant.
“There’s no change needed,” Taylor said. “We’re speaking the truth. We’re speaking about our concerns to the environment and our community and there’s nothing that Greenidge can do to stifle that free speech.”
In response to an inquiry by WSKG, a spokesperson for Greenidge wrote in a statement that the company “isn’t pursuing any litigation and, as these letters make clear, isn’t seeking to prevent anyone from sharing their position.”
*Full Disclosure: The DEC is a WSKG underwriter.