After months of delay, NY still reviewing 4,000 public comments for Finger Lakes power plant owned by Bitcoin miners
“It’s commendable that they’re [DEC] carefully looking at these comments and taking them seriously,” Marshall said. “But I was also curious — why does it take this long to read through that many comments and get a sense of things. Is it a very complicated situation?”
Marshall and his research partner, data scientist Marina Zafiris, wanted to see it for themselves.
Within a couple of hours, Zafiris was able to write code to analyze the text data of all the comments using all open source software. They then refined their algorithms to scan the document subject lines for key phrases such as “deny Greenidge’s title V air permit.” They manually reviewed nearly 20% of the files to double-check their work.
Afterward, they mapped the responses to determine how many were out-of-state responses. So far, they have only mapped 65% of the comments, but nearly 100% of those are from New Yorkers.
“I do want to make this clear: This isn’t complex. This is simply finding patterns within text data,” Zafiris said. “It would be simple for any experts that the DEC would hire to be able to do a similar analysis.”
In response to the press conference, Greenidge Generation said it has overwhelming support from the Yates County legislature, the local farm bureau and IBEW union. They also accused opponents of running an effort to submit false comments.
“Our few remaining opponents have offered zero factual or legal basis for a denial of our permit renewal,” Greenidge Generation wrote in a statement via email. “But they did run a statewide digital campaign to generate thousands of pre-packaged submissions. We didn’t need to employ campaign-style tactics. Our community support is indisputable, as the record reflects.”
Seneca Lake residents and environmental groups have cited concerns that Greenidge could set a precedent for cryptocurrency mining in New York State, where a handful of defunct fossil fuel plants are offline and potentially available for lucrative operations. Aside from the environmental concerns, locals point out the plant is providing little to no benefit to the electric grid as it functions almost entirely to power the crypto mining operation.
They also see the decision as a test of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, (CLCPA) which requires all sectors to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Last week, 13 members of Congress sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the cryptomining industry for infringing on environmental laws.