New York locals accuse gas-fired mining operation of heating Seneca Lake

Residents are concerned over the environmental impact of Greenidge’s gas-fired Bitcoin mining plant, asserting that the firm is heating the lake and may be killing marine life.

New York locals are accusing Greenidge Generation’s gas-fired Bitcoin mining plant of heating Seneca Lake in upstate New York.

On a daily basis, the Greenidge plant is permitted to withdraw 139 million gallons of water from the lake and discharge 134 million gallons of water. The plant is also allowed to discharge water with a temperature of up to 108 degrees Fahrenheit (F) in the winter, and up to 86F in the summer.

The residents of Dresden have expressed concern over the rising temperatures of the lake. The sustainability of trout species that populate the lake is a key concern for locals, with the fish thriving in temperatures between 52F and 64F, while levels above 75F are lethal for some species. On July 5, local homeowner, Abi Buddington, told NBC:

“The lake is so warm you feel like you’re in a hot tub.”

In April, Michael McKeon, a representative of Greenidge, refuted accusations the firm had raised the temperature of Seneca Lake.

“We are not blasting heated water into the lake, that’s not true. We have the most advanced technology and we will continue to invest in the most advanced technology to protect the fish in the lake,” a spokesperson said.

On May 9, Greenidge shared information from its data center, showing that between March 1 and April 17 – a critical period of the local trout spawning season, its daily discharge temperatures ranged between 46.6F and 54.6F.

A thermal study on Seneca Lake’s water temperatures is yet to be conducted, with an upcoming analysis currently slated to take place in 2023.

Since the start of June, Greenidge’s Bitcoin mining operations have been carbon neutral, with the firm announcing plans to purchase carbon offsets as part of its sustainability goals.

The plant, located in Dresden, New York, is currently capable of drawing roughly 41 megawatts (MW) of power, with Greenidge planning to expand its capacity to 85 MW by 2022.

Judith Enck, a former regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is unconvinced by the firm’s actions, telling NBC: 

“Carbon offsets is not a particularly effective way to reach greenhouse gas reduction goals. And there is no system in place to regulate it in New York.”

Related: Crypto mining will be a bridge to 100% renewable energy production, says Mike Colyer

Atlas Holdings acquired the Greenidge plant in 2014, converting it from a coal burner to a natural gas burner before reopening in 2017.

Local activist group, the Seneca Lake Guardian, describe the plant as burning fossil fuels “to make fake money in the midst of climate change.”

Cointelegraph reported on July 2 that Greenidge is planning to expand its crypto mining operations to South Carolina as early as this year. The firm plans to expand its crypto mining operations across multiple locations and achieve an operational capacity of at least 500MW by 2025.

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