DEC under fire for granting permit extension to Greenidge bitcoin facility
- October 3, 2022
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DRESDEN, N.Y. (WETM) – The controversy over a cryptocurrency mining plant along Seneca Lake continues as those against the plant are claiming the NY DEC pulled an “11th-hour bait and switch” to extend deadlines on plant projects that would help protect wildlife in the lake. But the agency and the company say both parties stuck to agreed deadlines and proper procedure.
In a press conference on October 3, 2022, Seneca Lake Guardian, Assemblymember Anna Kelles, and winery owner Vinny Aliperti joined to call out the DEC’s granting of the extension. DEC originally set a deadline of September 30, 2022 for Greenidge to install screens over its intake pipe in Seneca Lake.
In the press conference, Kelles said that the intake pipe draws in more than 130 million gallons of water every day. Without screens in place, Kelles said this harms the wildlife and food chain—even down to the cellular level—in the lake. The group also said Greenidge pumps the water back into Seneca Lake at a temperature over 100 degrees, potentially creating toxic algae blooms that would harm the drinking water that comes out of the lake.
SLG and Kelles called out the DEC for quietly modifying the permit just days before it was set to expire. Greenidge applied for the wire screen authorization in March 2022, but the group said the company has had five years to do so, Seneca Lake Guardian said.
Greenidge told 18 News that the sheer amount of work, research, study, and paperwork involved in implementing the screens prevented the company from applying for authorization sooner as it can take years from the first plan submissions to the actual installation. Both the DEC and Greenidge said that the company is prohibited from doing any work on the screens until it gets State authorization.
In response to the frustration from SLG, the DEC said that on Sept. 27, it issued authorizations for Greenidge to install the screens and, at the same time, modified the company’s permit to allow until January 20, 2023 for the installation and only the installation. The agency explained that the authorization fell on Sept. 27 because the DEC and Greenidge followed proper timelines and dates for public comment and waiting for State authorization.
Greenidge’s overall water permit was set to expire on September 30, and the company applied for a renewal months ago, the DEC said. However, the agency said it granted the extension independent of Greenidge’s application of renewal; as such, the extension is only for the installation of the wire wedge screens, not the permit as a whole.
Greenidge is allowed to continue operating while the renewal application is under review and until a decision is made by the DEC
“The DEC’s latest move is inconsistent, irrational, and undemocratic,” said Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian. “Those of us who live with Greenidge’s daily threats should be heard in this process, not just Connecticut-based speculators desperate to leach as much money as possible out of the Finger Lakes.
The DEC said it will continue to require compliance from Greenidge for all permit applications “to ensure protection of public health and the environment.”
DEC continues to require compliance with all permits while work at Greenidge Generating, LLC is underway to ensure the continued protection of Seneca Lake, including enhanced protections for fish and their habitat. DEC subjects all applications for environmental permits to a transparent and rigorous review process to protect public health and the environment. As such, the facility is required under its existing State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit to install wedge wire screens at the facility to prevent fish mortality.
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
Greenidge said it has continually worked closely with the DEC to meet deadlines and follow proper procedures. It also said it is ready to install the screens and will meet the January 2023 deadline.
In a statement, Greenidge said, “We’ve consistently worked to ensure that Seneca Lake, which our team enjoys and values as much as anyone, and its aquatic life are fully protected. Our application was submitted in March and we’re awaiting final regulatory approvals for that project; we will promptly complete the installation of our screens upon receipt of those approvals.”
In June 2022, New York State denied a Title V air permit for the facility. Kelles said that Greenidge is currently appealing that decision but is allowed to remain open.