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Home » Yates County » Dresden » Greenidge loses air permit appeal, but not the right to keep operating Dresden plant

Greenidge loses air permit appeal, but not the right to keep operating Dresden plant

  • / Updated:
  • Peter Mantius 

Although Greenidge Generation lost its state air permit appeal last week, the company appears likely to continue operating its power plant and Bitcoin mining facility in Dresden through September — or beyond.

Protesters march outside Greenidge Generation’s power plant in Dresden.

While the Department of Environmental Conservation has declined to say if or when it plans to order the plant to shut down, the company has vowed to keep it open as it appeals the DEC’s May 8 ruling in state court.

Greenidge has a four-month legal window to file that state court appeal, and its existing air permit does not expire until the final day of that appeal period, the agency said Monday in a statement to WaterFront.

In her May 8 ruling, DEC Regional Director Dereth Glance upheld the agency’s June 2022 decision to deny Greenidge’s application to renew its Title V air permit. The company had appealed that denial within the agency, and a DEC administrative law judge had called for three issues to be adjudicated further. But Glance categorically cancelled the 22-month-old administrative appeal.

In a statement issued Friday to a select few news outlets, including the Finger Lakes Times, Greenidge slammed Glance’s “absurd … arbitrary, capricious and utterly preposterous” ruling.

“DEC’s political bias in this matter has been clear for years and now we have staff at DEC brazenly overturning the position of its own administrative law judge, who wanted to give this matter a full and fair hearing to determine the facts of the case,” the company’s limited-circulation statement said.

It continued, saying the company “will be filing an injunction and an Article 78 proceeding” in state court.

Company officials did not provide the statement to WaterFront, which had specifically requested a comment on Glance’s ruling. And as of Tuesday afternoon, the event wasn’t mentioned on the “company news” page of Greenidge’s website.

Neither had Greenidge disclosed the ruling to its common shareholders, either on the “investor relations” page of its website or in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

In its annual 10-K report filed with the SEC on April 9, Greenidge described its air permit appeal before the agency’s ALJ and concluded, “We expect that the appeals process may take a number of years to fully resolve.”

Investors, who who make investment decisions based on SEC filings, haven’t yet been notified that Glance terminated that appeal, potentially exposing the power plant to a state order to shut down.

Rachel Treichler, a Hammondsport attorney who has sued Greenidge on behalf of environmental groups, said the DEC’s May 8 ruling was a material event that should have been promptly announced to shareholders.

“This ruling means (Greenidge’s power plant) may have to shut down in four months, if Greenidge’s appeal (in state court) is not successful,” Treichler said.

Treichler also said the agency’s May 8 ruling should have spelled out the potential consequences of its decision to cancel the company’s administrative appeal.

“It seems to me a shutdown order should have been part of the ruling — if it is to have any consequence,” she said.

Greenidge President Dale Irwin did not respond to an email today asking whether the company considered the DEC’s May 8 ruling a material event requiring disclosure to shareholders.

In its May 9 statement to the Finger Lakes Times and others, Greenidge said it would be “filing an injunction.” But petitioners in state court don’t “file” an injunction, but rather ask a judge to impose one. A judge may approve or deny the request, after considering the arguments of those who might oppose it.

“DEC stands by (Glance’s May 8) decision and will vigorously defend it in the event that Greenidge brings a challenge,” the agency told WaterFront.

And Mandy DeRoach of Earthjustice said her law group would “respond aggressively” to any bid by Greenidge for an injunction or an Article 78 filing. (In an Article 78 proceeding, a petitioner asks a state court to review an action by a state agency.) 

In its May 9 statement reported by the Finger Lakes Times, Greenidge claimed to have won every ruling in state or federal court in lawsuits challenging the company’s operations in Dresden.

“When this issue moves outside the DEC’s political environment and into an actual court of law, we expect the same result,” the statement said.

But in the primary state court cases challenging the legality of Greenidge’s air and water permits, DEC and the company were victorious co-defendants, thanks to acting Yates County Supreme Court Justice William F. Kocher.

They also both won an appeal in the air permit case on strictly procedural grounds — not the merits of the alleged environmental violations.

Greenidge was the lone defendant in a federal lawsuit that alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act over the plant’s warm water discharges into Seneca Lake. 

federal judge dismissed that case, ruling that the DEC had jurisdictional authority to waive rules spelled out in the language of the federal law.

If Greenidge can claim success in court, the DEC can too.