NYS Assembly Passes Cryptocurrency Mining Moratorium Legislation

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By Renata Stiehl

ALBANY, NY (WENY) – Lawmakers in the New York State Assembly voted last week to pass legislation that would create a two-year moratorium on proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining for operations like power plants, that generate their own electricity using carbon-based fuels.

The vote on Assembly Bill A7389C passed with a simple majority, and now heads to the Senate for consideration. The legislation is sponsored by Assemblywoman Anna Kelles of Ithaca.

Proof-of-work authentication is the type of method used to verify blockchain transactions for Bitcoin, and some other cryptocurrencies. In recent years, cryptocurrency mining operations have popped up across New York State, including in the Finger Lakes region. Currently, Greenidge Generation operates such a facility at its natural gas power plant in Dresden, in Yates County. The company operates 17,000 Bitcoin miners at the site.

According to the language in the Assembly bill, proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining operations increase the amount of energy usage across the state, and go against the state’s energy and climate goals under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). That Act requires that statewide, greenhouse gas emissions be reduced 85% by 2050, and the state has net zero emissions in all sectors of the economy by that time.

If the moratorium legislation becomes law, the state would not approve new applications, or permits to operations that utilize a carbon-based fuel to generate “behind the meter” electric energy to mine cryptocurrency using proof-of-work authentication methods to validate blockchain transactions for a period of two years. Additionally, the state would not approve application or permit renewals during that two year period.

The legislation also requires that the state Department of Conservation, in consultation with the Department of Public Service, prepare a generic environmental impact statement on proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining. Additionally, the DEC would be required to host public hearings in each region of New York state, providing opportunity for comment.

The DEC is currently reviewing permit renewal applications and thousands of public comments submitted regarding Title V (Air) and Title IV (Acid Rain) permits for Greenidge Generation. The agency posted an update on March 31st that it would delay a decision on the permit renewals until June 30th.  The update said Greenidge Generation has proposed greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation measures, to meet state requirements of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

RELATED: DEC Decision on Greenidge Generation Permit Renewals Delayed Again
Greenidge says the GHG reduction in emissions at its facility will be obtained a full five years prior to New York’s CLCPA target date of 2030. The company also proposed that it will be a zero-carbon emitting power generation facility by 2035, also five years ahead of the statewide target under Public Service Law for the electric generating sector.

Supporters of the Assembly legislation are calling for swift action in the Senate.

“In the Finger Lakes and across the state, outside speculators are invading our communities to destroy our natural resources, kneecap local businesses, and keep us from meeting the crucial climate goals outlined by the CLCPA, just to make a few people very, very rich. I applaud the Assembly for putting New Yorkers and the planet first, and taking steps to curb this dangerous industry,” Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian said in a statement issued Thursday evening. “In the absence of Governor Hochul’s leadership on this issue, the Senate must immediately take up and repass the moratorium bill, as they did last year by a substantial margin. This is an issue that matters to New Yorkers, evidenced by the 4,000 public comments sent to DEC about Greenidge Generation’s Title V Air permit renewal, 98.8% of which were opposed to the plant’s cryptomining operations. Repowering or expanding coal and gas plants to make fake money in the middle of a climate crisis is literally insane.”

A similar bill in the New York State Senate passed in last year’s legislative session. If it becomes law, it would take effect immediately and would apply to all permits and renewal applications filed after that date.


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