By Peter Mantius
Joining a growing outcry, Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association urged the state Public Service Commission today to reject Greenidge Generation LLC’s bid to fast-track rules for regulating its Bitcoin mining operation.
“We believe there are several unresolved thermal discharge issues relating to the facility’s condenser cooling,” Jacob Welch, the environmental group’s president, wrote today in formal comments to the commission.
Although Greenidge’s PSC permit explicitly limits the electric plant to producing wholesale energy for the electric grid, the company recently began using its own “behind-the-meter” electricity to power a new cryptocurrency data center.
The company is asking the commission too issue an order June 11 that excludes electricity used by the data center from PSC regulation. Two petitions, Nov. 2019 and Jan. 2020 (see link to “90 comments” below), are under consideration on the commission’s “consent agenda,” where items are typically approved without discussion.
Shortly after the public discovered the item, the PSC received some 90 comments voicing opposition.
Welch (right) wrote that the commission “should not be so easily fooled,” and should reject Greenidge’s petition for a declaratory judgment before at least hearing counter arguments.
PSC spokesman James Denn said in an email early this afternoon that the commission “has not yet made a decision in the proceeding.
“However, nothing in the PSC’s pending decision would obviate the need for Greenidge to obtain any necessary local or state approvals, or to comply with applicable laws and regulations, such as those overseen by the (Torrey Planning Board) and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.”
A live video of tomorrow’s PSC meeting can be found here.
SLPWA is concerned that as the plant becomes more active — generating both wholesale electricity for the grid and non-grid power for the data center — it will spew much more warm water into Seneca Lake, exacerbating the problem of harmful algal blooms, or HABs.
The state has allocated tens of millions of dollars to combat HABs, and SLPWA volunteers are on the front lines of the DEC’s effort to collect data on toxic blooms.
HABs toxins pose serious health risks to humans, while also affecting fish, pets, wildlife and waterfowl. They threaten public water systems and lakeside homes that draw drinking water from the lake.
Hazardous blooms are associated with warmed water, and they have gotten progressively worse in recent years. All of the Finger Lakes have experienced HABs, and the Dresden shoreline is already a hot spot, data show.
Greenidge is a 1950s-vintage former coal plant, recently converted to burn natural gas. It uses a highly inefficient “once-through” cooling system — prohibited at newer plants — to cool its generating equipment.
The Dresden plant is authorized to drain up to 139 million gallons a day from Seneca Lake — more any other…