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By Richard Currie, The Register

Two-year ban comes as state attempts to reduce emissions by 85%

New York State has banned a practice becoming more common in the crypto-mining industry – the rescuing and repurposing of mothballed fossil fuel plants to exclusively provide energy for mining digital currency.

Governor Kathy Hochul yesterday enacted a bill in the works since May 2021 that establishes a two-year moratorium on applications or permits for “an electricity generating facility that utilizes a carbon-based fuel and that provides, in whole or in part, behind-the-meter electric energy consumed or utilized by cryptocurrency mining operations that use proof-of-work authentication methods to validate blockchain transactions.” This includes applications to renew such permits.

The bill cites the contribution to climate change of dirty fuel plants at a time when the state has committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050, with “net zero emissions in all sectors of the economy by that time.”

Though it notes that the industry is growing in New York, the bill says: “The continued and expanded operation of cryptocurrency mining operations running proof-of-work authentication methods to validate blockchain transactions will greatly increase the amount of energy usage in the state of New York, and impact compliance with the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.”

All existing crypto-mining outfits in the state will now be subject to a generic environmental impact statement measuring the amount of energy consumed, the source of that energy and its impact, their emissions and the impact they may have on public health, water usage, and “social and economic costs and benefits, if any.” The statements will be available for public comment and the Department of Environmental Conservation will hold hearings on the matter in each region of the state.

Since when do crypto-miners take over power plants?

The crypto-mining boom in the US is largely due to moves in China, once the world’s mining epicenter, that essentially shut the industry down. Companies in search of cheap power then set up shop in the States, which now accounts for some 38 percent of the world’s miners. Globally, Bitcoin mining consumes more electricity than Finland.

The cost of this shift is measurable. Montana environmentalists watched aghast as mining company Marathon swooped on the Hardin generation station, a 115-megawatt coal plant, in 2021. With a datacenter now on the premises, the station belched out 187,000 tons of CO2 in the second quarter, a more than 5,000 percent increase on what was emitted during the same period in 2020.

“This isn’t helping old ladies from freezing to death, it’s to enrich a few people while destroying our climate for all of us,” Anne Hedges, co-director of the Montana Environmental Information Center, told The Guardian. “If you’re concerned about climate change you should have nothing to do with cryptocurrency, it’s a disaster for the climate.

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