Greenidge Generation’s bid to quietly use a state-run fishing and boat launching facility on Seneca Lake as an industrial staging area came to a halt today when a contractor’s temporary permit expired.
BIDCO Marine Group finished loading giant metal beams and rust-colored sections of a massive barge onto flatbed trucks that hauled them away, leaving a vacant parking lot by the shore.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation said it had required BIDCO to “remove the equipment.” In a statement to WaterFront Thursday, the agency said: “The barge will stage the equipment away from the boat launch site.”
Greenidge hired the Buffalo company to transport wedge wire screens for its huge water intake pipe at its gas-fired power plant near Dresden, about seven miles north of Severne Point. The pipe, which extends hundreds of feet into the lake, withdraws immense quantities of lake water to cool plant machinery.
The closing of the Severne Point staging area puts Greenidge one step further away from meeting an Oct. 1 deadline to install the wedge wire screens.
The federal Clean Water Act requires large-scale water users like Greenidge to screen their intake pipes to prevent millions of fish, eggs and larvae from being vacuumed up and killed.
The DEC allowed Greenidge to restart the plant in the Spring of 2017 without intake screens or an up-to-date water permit. When the agency finally granted a water permit on Oct. 1, 2017, it awarded the company a five-year grace period to install the screens. Meanwhile, the plant has been allowed to withdraw up to 139 million gallons a day.
That 2017 water permit, which expires Sept. 30, states: “Notwithstanding any extensions that may be granted by the (DEC), the completion of installation and operation (of the wedge wire screens) shall not occur later than (Oct. 1, 2022).”
Meanwhile, Greenidge continues to operate a controversial Bitcoin mining operation at the plant in spite of the DEC’s recent decision to deny its application to renew a Title V air pollution permit. The company has admitted that combined on-site and upstream emissions of greenhouse gases far exceed the limits of its permit, which expired last September.
The DEC has administratively extended the air permit, and the company has vowed to fight the denial of its bid to renew it. So the Bitcoin operation continues pending the legal outcome, while the plant continues to draw tens of millions of gallons of unscreened coolant water each day.
When WaterFront first presented pictures of the BIDCO barge sections, cranes and other equipment at the Severne Point boat launch to the DEC July 5, the agency was coy about whether it even knew about the industrial buildup.
When asked whether anyone had received a permit to allow the activity, the agency said in a July 5, 2022 statement to Waterfront: “DEC is investigating the placement of the materials at DEC’s Severne Boat Launch.”
In a July 21 statement, the DEC told WaterFront that it had required BIDCO “to submit temporary revocable permit” to use the boat launch as a staging site.
It had declined a request to provide a copy of the permit, and it did not say when the permit was issued.
Neighbors of the boat launch site witnessed the buildup, disassembly and removal of the industrial equipment. They regularly supplied photos to the environmental group Seneca Lake Guardian, a vocal opponent of Greenidge’s bitcoin mining operation.
“The residents of this community continue to be concerned about this predatory bully corporation and its antics,” SLG said Friday.
Dale Irwin, president of Greenidge Generation Holdings and plant manager, did not respond to emailed questions.
The DEC has said the company must obtain an Article 15 permit before it installs the wedge wire screens. In its July 5 statement, the agency said Greenidge had applied for that permit, but that its application was not deemed complete.
The wedge wire screens installation process awaits the completion of the application, a public comment period, and the DEC’s granting of the required Article 15 permit.
Peter is a three-time Pulitzer nominated reporter covering environmental issues through his first-of-its-kind digital publication The Water Front. He’s won an array of Associated Press, UPI, and Society of Professional Journalist awards. His reporting on environmental issues continues to be featured in prominent New York publications and is available on FingerLakes1.com through an exclusive content partnership. Have a question or lead? Send it to [email protected].