Public Advocate Williams + NY Advocates Rally for Gov. Hochul to Sign Cryptomining Moratorium Now!

As the crypto industry crumbles and Bitcoin tanks, pressure builds on Gov Hochul to sign critical climate legislation and get in line with White House recommendations

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Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Five months since the NYS Legislature passed the cryptomining moratorium bill (A.7389-C/S.6486-D), Governor Hochul has still not committed to signing it into law. The bill would put a pause on new and renewed air permits for fossil fuel power plants that house proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining, and require the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to conduct a study into the practice’s environmental impacts.

Today, with the year-end deadline looming, NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Ana Maria Archila, and advocates with Food & Water Watch, Earthjustice, NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, NYPIRG, Sunrise Movement, and more gathered outside of the Governor’s New York City office to demand that she take action now. Advocates also urged Governor Hochul to shut down the fracked gas-powered Bitcoin mines Greenidge Generation and Fortistar North Tonawanda.

“Cryptocurrency mines that use a ‘proof-of-work’ process are known to cause significant damage to the environment and local economy, which is why many countries have completely banned the practice. The state legislature passed a critically important moratorium on this type of harmful mining months ago, so we can ask questions now rather than dealing with the fallout later, but the Governor has failed to sign this common sense legislation into law. This is a no-brainer, especially when there are other ways to mine cryptocurrency technology. The governor must stop delaying and sign this moratorium, allowing our state to create the kind of infrastructure we need to protect New Yorkers and our environment from harmful economic and environmental impact,” said NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

Food & Water Watch Senior New York Organizer Eric Weltman said:

“The most significant climate legislation passed this year in New York is sitting on Governor Hochul’s desk, collecting dust. At the very time we need to move off fossil fuels everywhere, Governor Hochul is allowing the tanking cryptocurrency industry to slide in the back door, firing up fracked gas plants to run their power-hungry operations. It’s time for Hochul to strike a blow against fracked gas before time runs out. Governor Hochul must sign the moratorium on fossil fueled cryptomining now.”

“Every minute the Governor twiddles her thumbs, out-of-state speculators are getting rich off our natural resources, while local communities and our $3 billion agritourism industry pay the price. We’re sick of her siding with this volatile, tanking industry over the planet and real New Yorkers.” said Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Seneca Lake Guardian. “Shut down Greenidge now, and sign the moratorium.”

Governor Hochul has repeatedly responded to questions about whether she’ll sign the moratorium by claiming she has hundreds of bills to review. Over the summer, Governor Hochul signed 600 bills, but on Thursday, when asked about whether she planned to sign the bill, she hedged, saying “we have a couple weeks.” Meanwhile, Bitcoin has plummeted 65% this year, and the crypto industry is imploding. Greenidge’s stock is tanking too – down to a record low ~$0.71/share, from $17.29/share in January 2022. The company’s CEO abruptly stepped down, and in a statement announcing the shakeup, Greenidge projected $22 million in losses for the 2022’s third quarter, and reported losing $107.9 million in the second quarter.

Watch the rally here.

Ana Maria Archila, national immigrant rights leader and former candidate for Lieutenant Governor, said, “New Yorkers elected Kathy Hochul to lead, and we need someone who is going to stop stalling and stand up for the people affected by this environmentally-destructive industry. The people of the Finger Lakes region and all New Yorkers need bold action on climate, and it’s well past time for the Governor to sign this vital bill into law.”

“Does Governor Hochul believe New York should keep dying fossil fuel power plants alive just for the private gain of cryptominers? It’s a no-brainer that this should be a resounding ‘no’ – even the White House agrees. This legislation is essential to meeting New York’s own climate law mandates, and is in lockstep with New York’s climate actions to-date, so what’s the hold up? Cryptocurrencies don’t need massive amounts of fossil fuel based energy to function, so the Governor can ignore the whining of a vocal few and stand up for the people who depend on her to guarantee our air and water,” said Liz Moran, New York Policy Advocate for Earthjustice.

“This is a narrow, common-sense piece of legislation that will ensure New York meets our critically important climate goals and protects New York’s fresh water, which is some of the last surface fresh water in the world,” said Assemblymember Anna Kelles. “It is time for Governor Hochul to sign this bill into law and demonstrate that she is a climate champion. We simply cannot allow the crypto industry to fire up old inefficient dormant fossil-fuel power plants to operate this highly energy and water-intensive method of cryptocurrency validation known as crypto mining. Not only have currencies like Ethereum proven that cryptomining is not necessary for crypto validation, we know it doesn’t produce significant jobs and it increases electricity costs for other residents. We also cannot allow cryptomining to put our billion dollar agritourism industry at risk, including risking the tens of thousands of people that it employs.” 

On September 15, industry giant Ethereum successfully “merged” from the energy-intensive proof-of-work mining method to proof of stake, reducing the cryptocurrency’s energy consumption by 99.95%. Ethereum is the second largest cryptocurrency (after Bitcoin) and its merge confirms that the industry can innovate and upgrade to more sustainable business practices.

Even the White House is sounding the alarm about cryptomining — in September, the Office of Science and Technology Policy released a report about the industry’s climate threats and the need for regulation. But cryptomining continues to grow rapidly across New York and the country. Earthjustice and the Sierra Club recently released a new Guidebook, finding that from July 2021-22 Bitcoin mining in the U.S. alone consumed as much electricity as four states combined, emitting 27.4 million tons of CO2 – equivalent to the emissions of as much as 6 million cars annually.

“Even if proof of work mining operations were powered 100% by renewable, green energy, it would mean that renewable energy won’t be available to power a home, factory, or electric car. New York state simply can’t cater to proof of work cryptomining,” said Isabella Grullon, NYPIRG activist, student at Hunter College.

Celeste Perez, Policy Organizer with NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, said, “Power plants being repurposed for energy intensive industrial uses, such as cryptocurrency mining, could have detrimental impacts on air and water quality in environmental justice communities, while also hindering New York’s progress toward reaching the emission reduction goals mandated in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). We are calling on Governor Hochul to sign the crypto moratorium bill and prioritize clean energy alternatives and the public health of New Yorkers.”

“We have an obligation as elected officials to do everything we can to fight for environmental justice and combat the climate crisis before it’s too late. I’m proud to have supported the crypto-mining moratorium bill alongside my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate. We took a stand last legislative session and it’s time Governor Hochul signs this bill into law,” said Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas.

Background

Last month, nearly 500 organizations, businesses, wineries, labor, and faith groups sent a letter to Governor Hochul strongly urging her to sign the cryptomining moratorium without delay. Signatories include 1199 SEIU, Action Center on Race and the Economy, Earthjustice, Finger Lakes Business Coalition, Food & Water Watch, WEACT for Environmental Justice, and NY League of Conservation Voters. And just last week, a group of winemakers called on Governor Hochul to shut down Greenidge. The company’s operations pose an existential threat to the Finger Lakes $3 billion agritourism economy, employing approximately 68,000 people.

Greenidge isn’t the only cryptomining operation threatening New York’s climate goals while harming New Yorkers and creating few jobs but big profits for an out-of-state corporation. In September, the New York Public Service Commission approved the sale of the Fortistar North Tonawanda power plant (FNT) to Digihost, a Canadian cryptomining company. Digihost has already been mining Bitcoin at the facility using power sourced from the grid, and is now one step closer to generating its own power with fracked gas for proof-of-work cryptomining. Over the last five years, FNT has only produced energy as a peaker plant between 2% and 13% of the time, emitting relatively small amounts of CO2 and other harmful air pollutants. Now Digihost will be able to pursue operating 24/7/365, multiplying its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 3000%, all while the rest of New York works to drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. 

Greenidge and FNT are just the beginning, which is why advocates are calling on Governor Hochul to sign the cryptomining moratorium before more outside speculators take advantage of New Yorkers, just to make rich people richer.

About Greenidge Generation + Proof of Work Cryptomining

Located on the shores of Seneca Lake, Greenidge is a once-mothballed power plant that was converted into a bitcoin mine by the private equity firm that owns it. The plant has brought only 48 new jobs to the region, while poisoning the Finger Lakes’ natural resources. Greenidge also sucks 139 million gallons of water each day from Seneca Lake and dumps it back in at up to 108 degrees, risking toxic algal blooms that could make this water source for 100,000 people non-potable. 

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) denied Greenidge’s air permit renewal in June stating that the facility poses a threat to the state’s climate goals. But Greenidge is still operating and even expanding as it appeals the DEC’s decision. It’s also attempting to renew its water permit without having met the conditions of its expired water permit

Gothamist recently reported, “The company has added about 10,000 computers and mined about 300 bitcoins in July alone, which would be worth more than $6 million. Their hash rates, a unit of how much power the bitcoin network is using, increased by nearly 70% over the last four months.” The added computers mean more greenhouse gas emissions (it’s on track to emit at least as much as 100,000 homes), more harm to Seneca Lake (a new study confirms that Greenidge’s operations are warming the lake).

Proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining is an extremely energy intensive process that threatens the ability of governments across the globe to reduce our dependence on climate-warming fossil fuels. Mining requires thousands of machines whirring 24/7 to solve complex equations. The more machines that are running, the faster a coin is mined. Each one of these machines requires energy to run, plus more energy for cooling. Globally, Bitcoin mining consumes more energy each year than the entire country of Argentina. In the U.S. alone, Bitcoin mining produces an estimated 40 billion pounds of carbon emissions each year. Cryptocurrency mining facilities are major emitters of air pollutants. And when cryptocurrency miners rely on the public grid, they can stick everyday people with the bill. A 2021 study estimates “the power demands of cryptocurrency mining operations in upstate New York push up annual electric bills by about $165 million for small businesses and $79 million for individuals.”

Powering Bitcoin mining with renewables is not a viable solution, as renewables supply cannot possibly meet the extreme energy demands of Bitcoin mining in addition to daily necessities such as heating and cooling homes and running cars. Any renewable energy that supports Bitcoin mining is renewable energy that is being diverted from the public grid. 

At last year’s Environmental Conservation budget hearing when asked about the potential impact of the escalating cryptocurrency mining activity in upstate NY on the state’s energy grid, the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) President Doreen Harris stated, “There could be a very significant impact on NY load resulting from cryptocurrency mining depending on the penetration of the resource.”

Cryptomining is also at odds with the overwhelmingly popular amendment to the state constitution passed last year, which guarantees every New Yorker the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthful environment. Revitalizing old polluting power plants for private financial gain, with drastic consequences for our air, water and climate, all while causing huge amounts of noise pollution, is now unconstitutional – and ought to be treated as such.Reform groups Common Cause/NY and NYPIRG have specifically criticized the crypto mining industry for exploiting public resources and straining the energy grid for private gain, and a group of federal lawmakers led by Senator Elizabeth Warren requested details from six major Bitcoin mining companies about their electricity usage and contributions to climate change.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]