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Public Weighs Greenidge Air Permits At DEC Hearings

Greenidge Hearings WEB

VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — Over the course of several hours of hearings Wednesday, speakers made their case to the DEC over whether or not Greenidge Generation should be granted a renewal of its air pollution permits.

The hearings, held before an administrative law judge, garnered over 80 speakers, the majority of which opposed renewing Greenidge’s Title IV and Title V air pollution permits due to the company’s move to mine cryptocurrency using energy generated at the natural gas-burning plant.

"At the risk of setting a precedent that could spread to dozens of other fossil fuel facilities across New York, DEC should reject this Title V air permit renewal and place a moratorium on the operation of all proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining facilities until a full environmental impact statement can demonstrate that such facilities can comply with our climate laws and not endanger New York's environment," Roger Downs, Conservation Director of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter said in the hearing.

The DEC called Greenidge’s permits into question last month, indicating the company had not shown compliance with the state’s climate goals under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

The former coal-burning plant was converted to natural gas in 2017. The facility previously operated intermittently, only providing electricity to the grid in times of peak demand like in winter and fall. Earlier this year, Greenidge moved forward with plans to utilize the plant’s entire 106 megawatt capacity for cryptocurrency mining as well as power generation.

During Wednesday’s hearings, around a dozen people spoke in favor of renewing Greenidge’s permits. They included Michael Davis, Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Chapter Local 840.

"There should be no ambiguity about where our loyalty falls at the IBEW Local 840,” Davis said. “We stand with Greenidge because we know their track record. We have people working there daily. We see their commitment to the environment, safety and to their community at large."

A copy of Davis’ remarks were also sent by a Greenidge spokesperson several hours earlier along with several other statements of support. An IBEW lobbyist, Addie Jenne, also appeared on Spectrum News’ “Capital Tonight” in support of Greenidge.

The IBEW’s now outspoken support of Greenidge indicates that opponents may face a broader front in their efforts to pass a legislative moratorium on cryptocurrency mining when lawmakers return to session in the spring.

Last year, an effort largely spearheaded by Ithaca Assemblymember Anna Kelles (D-125) fell apart during the last days of the session, largely due to the IBEW circulating a memo opposing the legislation.

The DEC extended the public comment window on the Greenidge permit renewals until Nov. 19.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.