TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has issued its long-awaited decision on the renewal of air permits at the Greenidge Generation powerplant and cryptocurrency mining facility in Yates County, ruling that the permits would not be renewed on the grounds of environmental harm through rising greenhouse gas emissions.

In a major win for statewide environmental advocates who had argued that the proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining at the location was too environmentally harmful, the DEC cited the state’s goals to combat climate change as one of the primary factors to withhold the renewal.

Bitcoin, which has the highest market cap of any cryptocurrency, is also the most recognizable example of one that utilizes proof-of-work authentication, a particularly energy-hungry method of compared to other ledger used to verify the transactions of cryptocurrencies.

“DEC determined the permit renewal application does not demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act,” said a press release tweeted out by DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Based on DEC’s review of the specific facts and circumstances presented, this natural gas-fired facility’s continued operations would be inconsistent with the statewide greenhouse gas emission limits established in the Climate Act.”

The statement went on to say that the DEC also considered that Greenidge’s powerplant output was largely being used to support its cryptocurrency mining operations, as opposed to supplying energy to the power grid.

“Greenidge has ‘not shown compliance’ because the application does not currently meet the requirements of the CLCPA, notably it has not to date shown that it is consistent or would not interfere with the attainment of statewide greenhouse gas emission limits; nor has it provided sufficient justification or identified alternatives or sufficient mitigation,” according to the DEC’s decision.

In a public statement, Greenidge Generation has assured stakeholders in the operation that they are still able to operate while air permit is in effect and that they will be seeking to challenge this “arbitrary and capricious decision” made by the DEC.

“We believe there is no credible legal basis whatsoever for a denial of this application because there is no actual threat to the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) from our renewed permit,” stated Greenidge Generation, “This is a standard air permit renewal governing emissions levels for a facility operating in full compliance with its existing permit today. It is not, and cannot be transformed into, a politically charged ‘cryptocurrency permit.”

The local impact is limited to the Greenidge facility for now, though it may signal that the former Cayuga Power Plant facility in Lansing, which has been the subject of cryptocurrency mining discussions for years, would have a harder time making that come to fruition.

New York State Assemblymember Anna Kelles, a longtime opponent of the renewal who led a proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining moratorium bill through the New York State legislature this year, celebrated the news when it came out. Governor Kathy Hochul has been hesitant to sign the bill, signaling that if she did it wouldn’t be for several more months.

Environmental advocates around the state trumpeted similar statements in reaction.

“This is an incredible, precedent-setting moment for everyone who has fought side by side with the Finger Lakes community. Governor Hochul and the DEC stood with science and the people, and sent a message to outside speculators: New York’s former fossil fuel-burning plants are not yours to re-open as gas-guzzling Bitcoin mining cancers on our communities,” said Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian. “Now, it’s up to Governor Hochul to finish the job by signing the cryptomining moratorium bill. Especially in light of this morning’s EPA v. WV decision, she has a real opportunity to protect New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act — and lead the nation — by acting now.”

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com