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Home » Yates County » Dresden » DEC terminates Greenidge Generation’s 2022 appeal: What does that mean? What happens next?

DEC terminates Greenidge Generation’s 2022 appeal: What does that mean? What happens next?

  • / Updated:
  • Peter Mantius 

Greenidge Generation has lost its administrative appeal within the state Department of Environmental Conservation that had challenged the agency’s June 2022 denial of its bid to renew its air emissions permit.

29-page decision issued Wednesday by DEC Region 7 Director Dereth Glance jeopardizes the company’s right to continue operating its power plant in Dresden, which houses a Bitcoin mining facility.

The plant has been allowed to operate during the 22-month intra-agency appeal, which had appeared likely to drag on for many more months after a DEC administrative law judge determined that three issues raised by Greenidge merited further adjudication.

But in her ruling, Glance overruled the ALJ, cancelled the pending adjudicatory hearing and declared to internal appeal closed. Glance had been assigned the case in September 2022 when she served as the DEC’s deputy commissioner for environmental remediation and materials management. She retained that authority after being reassigned to head DEC’s Region 7 office in Syracuse.

“DEC got it right, again. This plant is bad for the climate, bad for New York’s environment, and bad for its neighbors. Enough is enough, Greenidge must close.” said Lisa Perfetto, an attorney at Earthjustice. 

Greenidge has the option of appealing the decision in state court, most likely the Yates County Supreme Court. That might allow the plant an additional lifeline to continue operating while a judge weighs the case.

Greenidge recently warned its common shareholders that it has been experiencing financial strains.

Dale Irwin, Greenidge’s president, did not respond to a request for comment on whether the company planned such an appeal.

Glance’s ruling affirms the agency’s 2022 decision to refuse to renew the plant’s Title V air permit because it failed to comply with greenhouse gas emissions limits in the state’s 2019 climate law — CLCPA (the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act).

Greenidge immediately asked the DEC to review its denial, and it raised 20 or more specific issues for consideration before ALJ Elizabeth Phillips whittled that list down to three last September.

But Glance found no need to review whether the DEC could have renewed the permit despite the plant’s failure to meet CLCPA emissions limits. She also found Greenidge had failed to meet the burden of proof needed to trigger further analysis of mitigation measures. Nor did Glance find it necessary to weigh burdens on disadvantaged communities.

Phillips had already rejected as irrelevant the company’s argument that the plant had significantly cut air emissions since 1990, when the plant burned coal.

“This is a huge win for the climate and we are celebrating,” said Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian, which had engaged Earthjustice in an effort to enforce the permit denial. “Meanwhile, Greenidge continues to spew more and more greenhouse gases into our air at increasing amounts, and will likely try to continue operating while it tantrums over this decision and drags things out with an appeal.”

Earthjustice represents SLG, the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, Fossil Free Tompkins and the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter.

The plant’s Title V permit was issued in 2016. At the time, the company told the DEC the plant would operate solely to provide “peaking” power to the electric grid. But when it launched its Bitcoin operation in 2019, Greenidge needed the plant to generate far more power and emit much higher GHG emissions, the DEC staff concluded.

“Greenidge’s projected total facility emissions for calendar years 2022 through 2026 is 1,050,467 short tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per year, ‘which is more than six times the emissions the facility was producing, on average, prior to shifting to cryptocurrency mining operations,’” Glance noted in her ruling, quoting from the DEC staff’s analysis.

According to Earthjustice, the Dresden plant emitted 776 million pounds of CO2-equivalent gases in 2023, equal to about 84,000 cars on the road.

In recent weeks, Greenidge has warned common shareholders that its finances are precarious, raising “substantial doubt as to the company’s ability to continue as a going concern,” according to its 10-K annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.