Air permit brings Greenidge again to the spotlight
DRESDEN--The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced last week that Greenidge Generation completed applications for Title V and Title IV permits for the facility. As part of the oversight process, the draft documents are now available for inspection and public comment.
The Greenidge facility on Seneca Lake is a natural gas-fired electric generating plant that has made significant investments in using the power created on-site for the operation of cryptocurrency mining computers. The total generating capacity of the plant is approximately 107 megawatts and lake water is used in an open-loop fashion to cool the power generation equipment.
Of the two drafts, the Title V permit relating to air quality and emissions has increased in importance recently, as a focus on greenhouse gas emissions has been made nationally and by state governors including New York's Kathy Hochul. In addition, in 2019, New York state passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act which said the state would reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and no less than 85 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. Part of the Title V application specifically asks about compliance with the CLCPA.
Greenidge has applied to renew their existing Title V permit with slight modifications for what is typically a five-year period. Their current permit was issued on Sept. 7, 2016, and expired on Sept. 6, 2021 - however they are able to continue to operate as the new draft permit works through the process.
In documents posted Wednesday, Sept. 8 by the DEC, they said, "There are substantial greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which are currently associated with the existing and proposed uses at the facility. Based on the information currently available, at this time, applicant has not demonstrated sufficient compliance with the requirements of the climate act. The department has not determined whether the facility would be inconsistent with or would interfere with the attainment of the statewide GHG emission limits established in the climate act...While the department is making draft permits available for purposes of public review and comment, the department may seek additional information from applicant in order to facilitate making this legally required determination."
In a press release on Thursday, Sept. 9, Greenidge said, "Our existing Title V permit remains in effect, and our operation in Dresden is not impacted by this standard renewal process. Our application does not involve any major modifications to our facility or change to our current operation...Since resuming operations in 2017, Greenidge has fully complied with our state-issued air and water permits and taken additional steps beyond that to improve the environment we share."
Greenidge also notes in relation to the CLCPA, they were a coal-burning plant during the 1990 baseline year for greenhouse gas emissions and have made significant reductions with the conversion to natural gas. The company also says they are looking to start new projects to further reduce emissions and highlights through the purchase of carbon offset credits are currently operating carbon neutral.
United States Senator for New York Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Sept. 8 asking the EPA to "exercise its oversight powers in evaluating the renewal of the Title V Clean Air Act permit currently under consideration for the Bitcoin mining operations of the Greenidge Generation plant in Dresden, New York."
Gillibrand's letter says that during the last permit issuance the power made at Greenidge was used for the grid and not cryptocurrency mining, and as such, "the plant's operations have changed substantially."
Greenidge has previously responded that they are providing grid power, would still step in if the emergency need arose and although the end-use for some of the power generated there has changed, the process to make it has not and fully complies with their operating guidelines.
"Our facility's operation today, which sends a significant amount of the power we generate to the grid to support New York homes and businesses, is not generating any air emissions that are not subject to the terms and conditions of our existing Title V permit," Greenidge's recent statement said.
There are a number of ways to contact the DEC about this permit. These include by email (Comment.GreenidgeGenerating2021@dec.ny.gov), mail (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Environmental Permits, Bureau of Energy Project Management, Attention: Chris Hogan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-1750) or during virtual meetings in October (https://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/123728.html).