Greenidge air permit denied by DEC

John Christensen
The Chronicle Express

Facility continues operation as appeals process moves forward.

The Greenidge electric power plant near Dresden.

ALBANY -- The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) on Thursday, June 30, denied the Title V Air Permit renewal for the Greenidge Generation power plant and cryptocurrency data center in Dresden.

According to the DEC, "The Facility is a primarily natural gas-fired electric generating plant, with a generating capacity of approximately 107 megawatts (MW) with a maximum heat input which is limited to 1,117 million BTUs per hour." Greenidge submitted a timely Title V renewal application requesting a renewal of the existing permit, with "a request for minor revisions to the monitoring requirements for particulate emissions (PM-10, PM-2.5 and Particulates), which includes the use of a flowmeter for the Facility to demonstrate continuous compliance with the existing PM-10, PM2.5 and Particulates permit conditions."

Greenidge's Air Title V and Title IV (Acid Rain) permits were issued on Sept. 7, 2016, and expired on Sept. 6, 2021. The DEC says the permits were extended on that date in accordance with the State Administrative Procedures Act, and because the renewals were submitted to DEC on a timely basis, by law the Greenidge could continue to operate under the terms of its existing permit while DEC considered the renewal application. The public comment period was extended and ended Nov. 19, 2021. DEC received and reviewed approximately 4,000 public comments prior to making the decision.

Greenidge Generation released a statement following the decision:

“It is important for all Greenidge stakeholders to know this decision does not have any impact on our current operations in Dresden.  Because our application was already deemed complete, we operate pursuant to the State Administrative Procedures Act (SAPA).  Consistent with the provisions of the SAPA, we can continue running uninterrupted under our existing Title V Air Permit, which is still in effect, for as long as it takes to successfully challenge this arbitrary and capricious decision.   

“Greenidge made a sincere and substantial offer to take unprecedented actions to further reduce our emissions and make those proposals binding conditions in our renewed permit. On March 25thwe proposed reducing our facility’s permitted GHG emissions by an additional 40% by 2025, five years before the first CLCPA emissions reduction target date in 2030.  We also proposed to be a zero-carbon emitting facility by 2035 – a full five years before the statewide target for the electric generating sector.

“The NYSDEC never once engaged Greenidge since March 25th to finalize a Permit that would dramatically reduce GHG emissions and preserve upstate jobs.  They chose to pass up the opportunity to materially improve the environment, choosing instead to burden New York taxpayers with the expense of funding a lengthy administrative and judicial battle that could have easily been avoided.  

“We believe there is no credible legal basis whatsoever for a denial of this application because there is no actual threat to the State’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) from our renewed permit. This is a standard air permit renewal governing emissions levels for a facility operating in full compliance with its existing permit today.  It is not, and cannot be transformed into, a politically charged ‘cryptocurrency permit’.  

“Our Dresden facility represents a remarkably insignificant 0.2% of New York’s target GHG emissions level for 2030, and we have already reduced our GHG emissions at the facility by 70% when compared to the reference date of 1990 in the CLCPA.  It is absurd for anyone to look at these facts and rationally claim that renewing this specific permit -- for a facility that makes up a small fraction of the state’s electricity generation capacity -- would impede New York’s long term climate goals.  It simply would not.  

“While the many good people that work at Greenidge, including the dedicated IBEW members onsite, deserved far better from their state today, we are confident that an unbiased court system will reverse this regulatory misjudgment.  Until that happens, we are permitted to operate each day, in full compliance with our existing Title V Air Permit.” 

Opponents of the facility rejoiced at the denial of the permit. "This is an incredible, precedent-setting moment for everyone who has fought side by side with the Finger Lakes community," said Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian, the environmental activist group which claims credit for putting pressure on the DEC to deny the permit. "Now, it's up to Governor Hochul to finish the job by signing the cryptomining moratorium bill."

Dale Irwin, CEO of Greenidge Generation, says the electric power plant and the cryptocurrency data center added to it, have paid over $3 million into the state, county, town, and school tax coffers for 2021.

Greenidge Generation CEO and Yates County resident Dale Irwin said, "The people who know Greenidge’s operations best fully support the efforts at the facility: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union local strongly supports Greenidge; the Yates County Legislature voted unanimously in support of Greenidge; the Yates County Farm Bureau, which represents more than 300 family farms, voted unanimously in support of Greenidge. The Finger Lakes Economic Development Center, the area’s sole economic development agency, has also regularly spoken out in support of Greenidge."

Locally, those government heads and business leaders backed up Irwin's statement, and praised what Greenidge has done for the economy and community since bringing the Greenidge Power Station back to life si8x years ago.

Yates County Administrator Nonie Flynn

Yates County Administrator Nonie Flynn responded, saying, “Our county legislature voted unanimously in support of Greenidge in 2015, 2016 and again in 2021, and for good reason. For anyone living in Yates County, Greenidge has provided a reliable source of revenue to fund the services we provide. This revenue has helped allow Yates County to keep our tax levy flat at $16.5 million for the past three years, which has a positive impact on each and every Yates County resident. They are also creating the type of lasting careers we need for our residents. The economic impact from Greenidge is an obvious and dramatic benefit for all of our Yates County residents. Thus, the recent denial of their Title V air permit is certainly a disappointment, not only because Greenidge has been operating the plant properly under all regulations, but also because New York taxpayers will have to finance the burden of a lengthy, expensive judicial battle.  We are pleased, however that Greenidge can continue to operate, and we hope to see this decision changed during the appeal process.”  

Steve Griffin, CEO of FLEDC

Steve Griffin, CEO of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Center, added, “Our community has benefited enormously from Greenidge, and I’m extremely disappointed in this decision. Not only has Greenidge hired locally, including recent local high school graduates, but they created more jobs in tech than anyone is the area, and more than they had originally estimated. These jobs are paying some of the highest salaries in the county, and overall double the county average. It's exactly the type of jobs we need to be creating in this region to attract and retain a talented workforce. Beyond providing jobs, Greenidge has also brought millions of dollars in increased local PILOT and tax payments, which benefit our schools and our community at large. With Greenidge operating well within New York’s strict environmental guidelines, it’s a positive economic force for our region.”  

Larry Lewis

Larry Lewis, President of the Yates County Farm Bureau, said, “As a longtime resident of this community, a farmer, and President of the Yates County Farm Bureau, I know firsthand how important our work and actions around our climate are to ensuring the future of agriculture. Greenidge Generation is a great local employer that actively contributes to our community and is helping to drive our economy across industries in the area and doing it all within our state’s excellent environmental standards. We need families to stay in our region for ALL our industries to thrive, and Greenidge has provided a path for people to stay and grow careers – right here. That’s why we are extremely disappointed in this decision and hope to see Greenidge continue to operate.” 

Mike Davis, Business Manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 840, said, “It is a sad day in New York State when we can throw away good-paying jobs in a hi-tech field. This decision satisfies a small fraction of people whose beliefs are based on fears and who cover their ears to the facts. Rally after rally with almost no one from the towns and county around Greenridge itself because they live here and know the truth.  What should I tell my workers and their families? I guess I’ll just tell them, "Sorry, I guess working-class families don’t rate as high as some of the wealthy families that live on the lake."