Skip to main content

New York denies air permit to Bitcoin mining power plant

New York denies air permit to Bitcoin mining power plant

/

The Greenidge Generating Station had become a flashpoint for environmental advocates worried about crypto mining

Share this story

The logo of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin is seen on a symbolic “Bitcoin coin”
The logo of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin is seen on a symbolic “Bitcoin coin”
Photo by Silas Stein / Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Bitcoin miners in New York state faced a regulatory blow today as the state denied air permits for a gas-fired power plant used to mine Bitcoin. It’s the latest step that New York has taken to crack down on crypto mining as it tries to meet its goals on climate change.

The decision was made for the Greenidge Generating Station in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Bitcoin mining brought new life and renewed controversy to the embattled plant in 2020. That drew outrage from some local residents worried about how the plant could affect fish and tourism by discharging hot water into nearby Seneca Lake. At the state level, Greenidge’s revival has sparked fears that pollution from the energy-intensive process of mining Bitcoin could revive other zombie power plants and derail New York’s climate goals.

Bitcoin mining brought new life and renewed controversy to the embattled plant

New York state set a goal in 2019 of slashing its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 85 percent over the next few decades. The fight over Greenidge has been billed up as a test of how serious the state is about meeting that goal. Is it willing to get tough on the lucrative Bitcoin industry that’s boomed in New York ever since China kicked out miners last year? New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation ultimately determined that Greenidge’s operations “would be inconsistent with the statewide greenhouse gas emission limits established in the Climate Act.”

Greenidge operated as a coal-fired power plant for decades. But as coal struggled to compete with cheap natural gas across the country, the plant temporarily shuttered before retrofitting itself to run on gas in 2017. Then, in 2020, the plant’s operators spotted a more lucrative venture and started mining Bitcoin, which now makes up the vast majority of the company’s revenues. 

Bitcoin is the most polluting cryptocurrency, not only because it’s the most popular but because it relies on a particularly energy-hungry security mechanism to keep its ledger accurate. To verify transactions and earn new tokens in return, Bitcoin miners use specialized computers to solve puzzles that constantly grow more complex. All that computing power requires a lot of electricity, which generates greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution if it comes from a power plant that runs on fossil fuels.

Greenidge’s air quality permits expired last year, sparking a big battle over whether those permits should be renewed since they were issued before the plant started mining Bitcoin. Before crypto mining entered the picture, Greenidge was expected to serve primarily as a “peaker plant” that would start up whenever the grid might need extra electricity to meet high demand. Greenidge can still send power to the grid when it’s stressed, but it also runs around the clock to mine Bitcoin — which is why environmental advocates have grown more worried about its pollution. 

The plant’s operators say that the plant is carbon neutral because it pays for carbon offsets to try to balance out the impact its pollution has on the climate. But carbon offsets (which typically involve investing in renewable energy, tree planting, or forest conservation) have a history of failing to lead to actual reductions in CO2 heating up the planet. 

This is the second decision the state has made this month that’s prioritized climate goals over cryptocurrency operations. Earlier this month, the state legislature passed a bill that sets a two-year moratorium on new permits for fossil fuel power plants used to mine Bitcoin and similar energy-hungry cryptocurrencies while the state conducts a study on their environmental impact. The next litmus test for New York’s commitment to climate action will be whether Governor Kathy Hochul vetoes or signs that bill into law. That moratorium, however, wouldn’t apply to Greenidge, which was essentially grandfathered in as long as its existing permits were successfully renewed.

“Today, we celebrate”

“This is step one in addressing energy consumption and climate concerns with crypto mining, and we’re still looking to the governor to sign legislation that will address this issue more broadly. But for today, we celebrate,” says Elizabeth Moran, a policy advocate for nonprofit environmental law organization Earthjustice.

The decision today won’t immediately shut the plant down. Greenidge is expected to appeal the decision and keep operating as it does so. “We can continue running uninterrupted under our existing Title V Air Permit, which is still in effect, for as long as it takes to successfully challenge this arbitrary and capricious decision,” the company said in a statement today.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 8 minutes ago Not just you

E
External Link
Emma Roth8 minutes ago
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


J
Twitter
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.


A
External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.


A
External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.