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Seneca County passes measure supporting cryptocurrency mining moratorium

The Seneca County Board of legislators passed a measure Tuesday to send a letter to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul asking her to sign legislation implementing a two-year moratorium on refiring fossil fuel power plants for the purpose of cryptocurrency mining.

The measure passed unanimously, an unusual feat considering the board consists of 13 Republicans and a lone Democrat. Republicans have largely rallied against the efforts to address environmental concerns associated with generating some types of cryptocurrency.

The resolution also asks Hochul to instruct the Department of Environmental Conservation to deny the renewal of air permits for Greenidge Generation. The department has said the plant is not in compliance with the state’s climate goals due to its Bitcoin mining operation.

“We are holding up our end of the deal to protect our environment and honor the state’s climate goals,” the letter to the governor reads. “We ask that you hold up the state’s end of the deal by denying Greenidge Generation’s air permit applications and signing the bill that issues a moratorium on these kinds of cryptocurrency operations.”

The Greenidge Generation facility sits across Seneca Lake in Yates County. The Yates County Legislature unanimously voted last year in favor of a resolution supporting the Greenidge facility.

The chairs of the county’s Republican and Democratic committees, Thomas Fox and David Wood respectively, also released a joint statement shortly after Tuesday’s vote, aligning themselves with the board of supervisors.

“While we are both proudly pro-business, there comes a point where the exploitation of our natural resources goes too far,” the joint statement read. “The continued operation of Greenidge Generation’s cryptocurrency mining operation threatens the health of Seneca Lake and is not consistent with the character of our communities or the nature of our thriving tourism industry. The Greenidge plant offers no practical benefit to the residents of Seneca County and its continued operation will only harm the residents and visitors that cherish the lake as we do.”

Hochul said recently that she is still considering whether to sign the moratorium legislation. The DEC has set a deadline of June 30 to address Greenidge’s permits.

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.