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EPA denies Greenidge permit extension to operate coal ash pond

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has denied Greenidge Generation a permit extension to continue operating a coal ash pond left over from when its power plant on Seneca Lake in Dresden burned coal.

The pond was under an April 11,2021 deadline to cease operating, but Greendige applied for an extension until October, 2023.

On Tuesday, however, EPA issued a final decision, ruling that Greenidge is ineligible for the extension since it is no longer burning coal. EPA will take comment solely on when the cease receipt date for the ash pond should be. A 30-day public comment period will end on February 23, 2022. EPA is proposing that the facility have 135 days to cease receipt of waste in the pond after the issuance of a final agency decision after the close of the public comment period.

DiSanto Propane (Billboard)

“We’re grateful to the EPA for this decision. The people drawing their drinking water near the outflows of the Greenidge/Lockwood coal ash landfill deserve to feel confident that their water is safe. Coal ash stored in the impoundment pond can leak mercury, arsenic and other harmful substances into groundwater and the lake,” said Joseph Campbell, President of Seneca Lake Guardian.  “A 2019 study from environmental groups showed that almost all of the nation’s existing coal plants with such ash ponds have contaminated surrounding groundwater with unsafe levels of toxins, including a known carcinogen, arsenic, and lithium, which is associated with neurological damage. Identifying these issues and cleaning them up is essential, and we hope that the Department of Environmental Conservation will follow suit by rejecting Greenidge’s inherited coal ash landfill’s SPDES permit as well,” Campbell added.

In its decision, EPA stated that, “According to the information currently available to EPA, Greenidge is not operating a coal-fired generating unit to sell electricity to the grid, but rather operating a natural gas-fired generating unit exclusively to mine for Bitcoin. Consequently, the regulations do not provide Greenidge with the ability to obtain additional time (i.e., beyond the proposed 135 days) to continue to use the unlined CCR surface impoundment….” For other facilities that have submitted a Part A Demonstration, EPA is proposing to establish a process that will allow them to seek additional time where necessary to address demonstrated grid reliability issues. However, in this case, where the facility provides no electricity for the grid, EPA considers there to be no potential for grid reliability issues to arise.”