In brief

  • The State of New York could put a halt to Bitcoin mining for three years.
  • New York isn't the only place concerned about the environmental impact of Bitcoin mining.

A proposed bill would see Bitcoin mining in the State of New York halted for a period of three years in order to properly assess the industry’s environmental impact. 

New York Senate Bill 6486 was proposed by Senator Kevin Parker (D) to the State Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee earlier this week. The bill—if approved—will allow for the operation of a Bitcoin mining center only after a full review of the industry’s environmental impact. 

“Cryptocurrency mining centers are an expanding industry in the State of New York,” the bill reads, noting that they are often located in “retired or converted fossil fuel power stations.”

In addition to Senator Kevin Parker (D), the bill is co-sponsored by Senator Rachel May (D). 

Should the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee approve the bill, it must still pass the Senate before being delivered to Governor Cuomo, who will have final sign-off on whether the bill is signed into law or not. 

What will happen if the bill becomes law? 

Should the Governor sign off on the bill—if and when it reaches his desk—it will signal one of the most significant decisions against the Bitcoin mining industry in its current form. 

Elsewhere in the world, Bitcoin mining has already run into legal trouble because of its environmental impact. For example, in China’s Inner Mongolia, the regional government announced that it would ban all Bitcoin mining in the area earlier this year. The measures are part of China’s wider climate commitments, which include peaking carbon emissions by 2030.

In New York, however, Bitcoin mining has been growing, as retired power plants are converted into Bitcoin mining centers. One such example is Greenidge Generation LLC, a mining and power generation facility in Dresden, New York. Per an announcement earlier this year, the company expects to be listed on the Nasdaq in Q3 through a merger with Support.com. 

A growing concern

Bitcoin mining is an energy-intensive business. In order to create more Bitcoin, some of the world’s most powerful computers perform complex calculations that eat up a lot of energy. 

While some of the Bitcoin mining industry uses renewable energy—39%, according to Cambridge University—the majority of the industry still relies on fossil fuels. 

The resulting impact is an industry that’s annual energy consumption is equivalent to a country like Argentina, and a carbon footprint is broadly equivalent to 61 billion pounds of burned coal. And with a track record like that, New York’s legislators have taken notice. 

“The continued and expanded operation of cryptocurrency mining centers will greatly increase the amount of energy usage in the State of New York, and it is reasonable to believe the associated greenhouse gas emissions will irreparably harm compliance with the CLCPA in contravention of state law,” the bill adds.