Report supports cryptocurrency mining opponents’ legal case for moratorium


Opponents of proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining are touting a recently released report supporting the legality of a moratorium on the practice. (Vaughn Golden/WSKG)

VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — A newly released report supports the legal argument for New York state to regulate some energy-intensive cryptocurrency mining operations.

The independent white paper prepared by Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center lays out a legal argument supporting a temporary moratorium on the practice. Opponents of proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining have voiced concern over its environmental impact.

“The white paper lays out an argument for [Department of Environmental Conservation] to develop a generic environmental impact statement studying the environmental effects of proof-of-work mining and pausing permitting until that study has been concluded,” Jacob Elkin, a post doctoral research scholar and climate law fellow who drafted the white paper said this week.

Seneca Lake Guardian, an environmental activist group that has led efforts to push back against cryptocurrency mining in New York, asked the Sabin Center to study the issue. Environmental groups have been pushing to curb mining of some cryptocurrencies, arguing the energy-intensive processes used to generate them lead to outsized greenhouse gas emissions among other detrimental environmental factors.

Elkin’s report compares the legal process for implementing a moratorium to the one that was used to temporarily halt high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in 2010.

“My paper concludes that this process can also apply to proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining because of mining’s increasing environmental and especially climate impacts,” Elkin said.

In 2010, then Gov. David Paterson issued an executive order instituting a pause on the issuing of new permits for fracking until the state conducted a general environmental impact statement on the practice.

A legislative effort to place a similar moratorium on proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining is underway in the state Legislature. Elkin’s report suggests that a temporary moratorium implemented by the Legislature would be legally stronger than one carried out by executive order.