New York Bill Would Freeze Bitcoin Miners Pending Environmental Review

New York Bill Would Freeze Bitcoin Miners Pending Environmental Review

A new bill in the New York state legislature seeks to place a three-year moratorium on crypto mining pending an environmental review by the state.

The bill, from state Sen. Kevin S. Parker (D-Brooklyn), would only lift the moratorium for miners that “will not adversely affect” New York’s carbon-cutting benchmarks. It is in its earliest stages and was referred to the Senate’s environment committee Monday.

If passed, the bill would empower state inspectors to evaluate miners’ impact on water quality, air quality, carbon emissions and wildlife. Miners would only be allowed back online after completing an environmental impact statement. Those found to negatively contribute to New York’s carbon-cutting plans would be nixed.

Parker’s bill comes as state power plants roar back from their grave as reimagined bitcoin mining operations. In upstate’s Finger Lakes region, for example, a long-dormant coal plant now burns 19 megawatts-worth of natural gas to feed its armada of power-hungry mining rigs. The endeavor has proven so profitable that site operator Greenidge Generation is planning to boost capacity to 500 MW by 2025.

But environmentalists argue mining plants like Greenidge run directly counter to New York’s aggressive decarbonization goals. The state seeks to slash its greenhouse gas emissions 70% by 2030. Burning more natural gas kneecaps that effort, advocates say.

They also question the wisdom of allowing a plant that could power nearby homes to instead mine bitcoin.

The fight over Greenidge’s expansion plan foreshadowed what could be a monumental blow to New York’s miners. One that if successful will freeze every commercial mining operation in the state and likely threaten those found to be irreconcilable with climate and environmental goals.

Just two weeks ago, the operator convinced local politicians to green-light its expansion plan without subjecting it to an environmental review. Environmentalists were aghast. The politicians said they were too. But their hands were tied by state law.

“We got all the same issues you do,” Planning Board Chairman David Granzin said to skeptical attendees of the approval hearing, according to Binghamton NPR affiliate WSKG.

“We know that Bitcoin is a big waste of energy, but we’re bound by the law. We have to follow the rules,” Granzin said.