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Environmental Groups Protest Bitcoin Mining Outside Governor Hochul's Speech


Governor Kathy Hochul came to New York City today as part of her tour to promote her infrastructure plan, but she was greeted by protestors who are upset by one project in particular, Kelly Canaday reports.

CANADAY: When Congress passed its one-trillion-dollar infrastructure package, Governor Hocul says she was the first one in line to get some of the money for New York.

HOCHUL: “In my first couple of weeks on the job, I went right to Washington. I met Mitch Landrieu, who had just been named the Czar of Infrastructure. I was the first Governor who showed up in his office, and I said, ‘If I’m the first, I want the most.’”

CANADAY: The governor was talking at an event put on by Cornell University in New York City to talk about how the state will spend the infrastructure money. Hochul says they want to use it on highways, airport improvements, and new rail tunnels for freight.

HOCUL: “We are the beneficiaries and stewards of this infusion of money and it does fit perfectly in with the priorities that we’ve had on the books, but also those that I’ve embraced as Governor in the last sixth months. It gives us part of an opportunity to rethink many facets of our economy.”

CANADAY: Outside of Governor Hochul’s speech on infrastructure, two dozen protestors from environmental groups were upset about one particular issue: Bitcoin mining plants. They were asking the governor for a moratorium on Bitcoin mining in New York state because they say it uses too much energy and destroys the environment.

Specifically, the protestors were upset about the Greenidge power plant in New York’s finger lake region.

This plant was converted to a Bitcoin mine by a private equity firm and it uses gas from fracking. Eric Weltman is leading the protest. He’s a Senior Organizer with the group Food and Water Action.

WELTMAN: “We cannot meet New York’s climate goals by continuing to allow fracked gas to be extracted and burned for this extremely energy-intensive process known as proof of work cryptocurrency mining which basically is the method used by Bitcoin.”

CANADAY: Mining is the process in which Bitcoin is created and accounted for. The transactions are recorded by a decentralized blockchain platform. Miners compete in this registration process by solving “cryptographic puzzles,” after which the winner is awarded Bitcoin. Mining rigs are used to solve the problems more quickly. Weltman says he isn’t against crypto currency, just the way it’s polluting the environment in New York State.

WELTMAN: “Here’s the bottom line: New York can still maintain its edge on innovative finance without risking climate catastrophe.”

CANADAY: Inside the event, Governor Hochul did not respond specifically to the protestors. She did, however, note that the infrastructure money will also be used for environmental projects.

HOCHUL: “I’m gonna continue to do everything we can while we are given the responsibility of protecting our planet for future generations.”

CANADAY: Environmental groups say they will keep up the pressure on the governor to stop the Bitcoin mining.

Kelly Canaday, Columbia Radio News

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