Environmental groups sue Seneca Lake bitcoin miner

Finger Lakes activists working with the Sierra Club are asking the Environmental Protection Agency to shut down the Seneca Lake plant, which opposes the continuation of the decommissioned Seneca Lake power plant, which has been repurposed for bitcoin mining.

The lawsuit filed by the Seneca Lake Guardian, the Finger Lakes Conservation Committee and the Sierra Club on Tuesday in the Rochester Division of the Federal Western District of New York comes as bitcoin miner Greenidge Generation may file for bankruptcy.

Greenidge said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last month that even though it has restructured about $74 million in debt, it still sees the possibility of bankruptcy.

“There is uncertainty about Greenidge’s financial condition and substantial doubts about its ability to continue as a going concern,” the filing said.

The lawsuit, filed by the Sierra Club and Finger Lakes activists, alleges that Greenidge’s bitcoin mining operation, located in the Yates County village of Dresden, violates Clean Water Act regulations and other federal environmental regulations. The legal action comes after months of fencing between Greenidge, environmentalists trying to shut down the firm’s Seneca Lake plant, and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The president of Greenidge Generation condemned the lawsuit and the groups that filed it.

“How many times are we going to do the same thing? You could have presented your watch to interest groups as another frivolous legal challenge, which in the end is just a PR stunt,” Dale Irwin said in response to a request for comment from the Beacon. “They’ve lost every case they’ve filed in eight years — five judgments against them and zero for them. Here, the result will follow the same pattern – go to court, attract media attention, and then lose in court because you have no basis.”

It’s a former coal-fired power plant that was retrofitted to run on natural gas in 2017 and then decommissioned. Since 2019, the former power plant has been run by Greenidge as a bitcoin mining operation.

The so-called proof-of-work of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is done by banks of powerful computers that perform trillions of calculations to solve highly complex problems that, when successfully solved, unlock blocks that yield cryptocurrency “coins.”

Although they largely fail to serve as a medium of exchange independent of any government, cryptocurrencies are traded as commodities.

At its peak in 2021, one bitcoin sold for over $67,000. As of January 1, 2022, the price has dropped to about $47,000. By mid-week, bitcoins were trading around $22,500 each.

In filings with the state, Greendige portrayed itself as an economic development engine that would bring many jobs to the Finger Lakes region. Critics say the plant’s operation pollutes the air, produces greenhouse gases and discharges harmful warm water into Seneca Lake and disrupts the Finger Lake’s ecological balance as a result of 600-foot-deep glaciers.

In a 2021 Rochester Beacon op-ed, commentator Michael Warren Thomas described the Seneca Lake plant as operating “the size of a power plant within New York’s environmental regulatory loophole.”

Opponents say the Greenidge plant violates numerous environmental standards. Greenidge keeps the environmental impact of its plant operations to a minimum.

In June, the DEC denied Greenidge’s application to renew its Title V Air Permit. Greenidge criticized the agency’s decision, but said the decision will not affect the plant’s operations because the application was received in a timely and complete manner, allowing operations to continue without interruption under the existing Title V permit, “as long as it is still in effect. it is necessary to successfully protest against this arbitrary and capricious decision.

Greenidge’s permit to discharge pollutants into Seneca Lake expired in September 2022 and was not extended.

The bitcoin mining company “failed to submit a sufficient renewal application to the New York State Department of Environmental Protection that contained complete, federally required information necessary for renewal (therefore) the facility is not entitled to continue discharging under its expired permit.” the court defends the brief.

Greenidge last week completed a $6 million state-of-the-art fish screen system that meets all state and federal requirements to protect aquatic life in Seneca Lake, Irvin said. Efforts like this by competitors are why no one in the Finger Lakes listens to these gadflies anymore; they have zero credibility. We continue to operate under a valid permit, and the latest bogus complaint by the losers of these years of litigation cannot change that.

“They don’t file lawsuits,” he added, “they issue press releases dressed up as lawsuits and just waste the courts, taxpayers, time and money.”

Will Astor The Rochester Beacon is the lead writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who follow our terms comment policy including using their full, real name. Presentations Letters page should be sent to [email protected].

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