Bitcoin Miner Runs Into a PR Crisis As Local Residents Worry About a Lake
A Bitcoin (BTC) mining operator in upstate New York is facing protests from residents who claim the firm is “ruining” an idyllic lake with its gas-powered mining activities.
Per NBC News, a resident claimed that “the lake is so warm you feel like you’re in a hot tub.” The body of water in question is Seneca Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes. Residents claim that the plant is “polluting the air and heating the lake,” the media outlet reported. Groups of disgruntled residents staged a protest outside the Department of Environmental Conservation office in Avon earlier this summer.
The facilities in question are operated by Greenidge Generation, which has boosted power output at the plant in the past 18 months. And the firm vehemently denied the charges, with its CEO Jeff Kirt quoted as stating that “the environmental impact of the plant has never been better than it is right now. Kirt added that his firm’s operation, which powers 8,000 mining devices, is working “within its federal and state environmental permits” and has created 31 jobs.
The firm has also apparently been on the PR trail, too, donating equipment worth USD 25,000 to a local fire department and USD 20,000 gift to local “education and enrichment programs.”
Kirt claimed that, between February 2020 and February this year, Greenidge had mined BTC 1,186 (USD 40.7m) at a cost of about USD 2,869 per token.
As reported, the firm is aiming to achieve carbon neutrality by buying carbon credits from “an array of United States greenhouse gas reduction projects.”
But residents, including a former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regional administrator, smarted.
Judith Enck, the ex-EPA administrator, stated:
“Carbon offsets [are] not a particularly effective way to reach greenhouse gas reduction goals and there is no system in place to regulate it in New York. New York had established a goal in law of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. The state will not reach that goal if the Greenidge bitcoin mining operation continues.”
On Twitter, some accused NBC and other media outlets of fearmongering. Zack Voell, Director of Content at BTC mining company Compass, wrote that the NBC article “pretty directly infers that bitcoin mining is on the brink of boiling Seneca Lake.” He disputed the fact that a “few thousand ASICs” could make a lake of Seneca’s size “feel like you're in a hot tub.”
Another chose to look on the light side, suggesting that the reporter in question may not even have visited the area, and quipped:
“If [the report’s claims are] true, why hasn't anyone monetized spa-temperature water in the coldest deepest lakes in wine country?”
Meanwhile, Greenidge pointed to reports from state environmental authorities who ruled that the plant “does not have a significant impact on the environment.”
But emissions from the plant are “rocketing,” the media outlet added, pointing out that regulatory documents received by the Earth Justice group following an open records request showed that late in 2020, the plant was operating at 13% capacity, but was producing carbon dioxide equivalent emissions totaled 220,539,332kg, up from 108,230,768 in 2018. The plant is also permitted to release 511 million liters (or 0.003% of the estimated total water volume of the lake) of water per day at temperatures of up to 42 degrees Celcius – although, NBC added “a full thermal study hasn’t been produced and won’t be until 2023.”
However, residents are fearful that “30 other power plants in New York could be converted to Bitcoin mining.”
Meanwhile, as reported in June, New York failed to pass a measure that would put a hold on new large-scale Bitcoin mining operations as The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union pushed back against the measure, saying it was unfair to their members.