Companies in the Bitcoin mining space have primarily enjoyed a favorable regulatory landscape in the United States. For many of these firms, their goal is to redistribute the global hash rate and curb China’s dominance. However, one company is facing pullback from residents of a New York town following an expansion to the region.
No Way Near the Finger Lakes
Court documents filed last Thursday show that three organizations – the Sierra Club, the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, and the Seneca Lake Guardian – had teamed up with 20 locals to sue the town of Torrey, New York for approving the expansion of a crypto mining facility close to one of the Finger Lakes.
The claim, filed with the New York Supreme Court, alleged that the local government had violated state laws by allowing bitcoin miner Greenidge Generation to expand its existing Bitcoin mining outfit. The lawsuit alleged that Greenidge skirted the rules that require an Environment Impact Statement, by receiving approval for its construction as an “unlisted action.”
Local residents who joined the suit also provided several concerns over the proposed expansion. The reasons range from possible noise pollution to the facility’s potential effects on local wildlife and aquatic resources. All of these could affect the Finger Lakes and their reputation as a major tourist and recreational hotspot in the state.
The Greenidge Generation plant in Dresden, a nearby town, has been operating for a while now, under the ownership of private equity firm Atlas Holdings. Local news source Fingerlakes1 reported that the plant has been working “only intermittently and far below its generating capacity.” The plant houses over 7,000 mining facilities, although it has been on an expansion path.
Fingerlakes1 reported that Greenidge recently applied to construct and operate four new buildings, all packed with mining rigs. This addition will allow it to operate at full capacity and round the clock. The company has tried to alleviate fears, claiming at a board town meeting in October that it would continue to stay within state and federal government environmental limits.
Bitcoin’s Energy Consumption, Revisited
Greenidge’s controversy is once again bringing the issue of Bitcoin and its perceived hazards to the environment to light. For as long as the asset has gained mainstream attention, many have attacked it concerning its environmental impacts.
However, it is worth noting that mining has become much cleaner over time. In October, researchers from Cambridge University explained in their Global Cryptoasset Benchmarking Study that about 76 percent of Bitcoin miners have adopted some form of renewable energy.
The study pointed out that hydroelectric power is the most common energy source for most miners, with about 62 percent of them using it for their operations. Coal and natural gas amount to 38 and 36 percent, respectively. Wind, solar, and oil are also prominent energy sources.
Right now, the call for clean energy also extends beyond mining facilities. Last year, Alex de Vries, a blockchain specialist at PricewaterhouseCoopers, explained in a report that miners switching to renewables wouldn’t be enough to reduce the asset’s footprint. As he pointed out, the increase in renewables’ use was a positive, although these energy sources don’t cover exchanges, ATMs, wallet services, and others.
Many of these third-party services will need to figure out how to reduce their carbon footprint going forward if the crypto industry if to become more eco-friendly.