House Democrats in Pennsylvania are changing their approach to cryptocurrency mining regulations. Instead of halting permits related to the industry, they are advancing a bill to study the environmental impact and public health effects of crypto mining in rural areas of the state.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Greg Vitali, requires crypto mining operations to report their locations, number of computers used for mining, energy consumption, and emissions. It also includes a provision for a two-year moratorium on permits for power plants associated with crypto mining.
However, this provision was removed from the bill after facing opposition. Vitali expressed his concern that the amendment weakened the bill’s impact.
Crypto mining involves using computers to solve complex math problems in order to create new digital currencies like bitcoin and verify transactions. This process requires a significant amount of power, leading to concerns about its wasteful energy use and negative impact on greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Critics have also raised questions about the legitimacy and criminal use of digital currencies. To address some of these concerns, New York implemented a two-year freeze on air permits for fossil-fuel plants used for crypto mining.
In Pennsylvania, some crypto companies have purchased power plants to meet their high energy demands. Stronghold Digital Mining, for example, owns two plants that burn coal refuse, a byproduct of mining that is even dirtier than regular coal. These coal-refuse power plants receive annual tax credits as part of efforts to clean up coal waste in the state.
Environmental groups argue that there are better methods of remediating coal refuse and that burning it contributes to air and climate pollution. Additionally, crypto mining operations can disrupt rural communities with the noise generated by the mining computers and potentially harm aquatic life by releasing hot coolant water into local streams.
The politics surrounding crypto mining in Pennsylvania are complex and do not always align along party lines. Supporters of crypto mining argue that it helps clean up the state by utilizing waste coal and contributing to the reclamation of land. The removal of coal refuse over the years has helped reclaim thousands of acres in Pennsylvania.
The bill proposed by Rep. Vitali faced pushback from top Democrats in the House. It was initially scheduled for a vote in June but was postponed at the request of House leadership. The bill finally passed committee on a 13-12 vote, with Republicans and one Democrat opposing it.
It is worth noting that data centers, which also consume a significant amount of resources and generate noise pollution, face similar challenges as crypto mining. However, they do not have the same alliance with coal-refuse power and do not raise as many concerns about excessive energy use.
Another bill introduced by Vitali seeks to exclude crypto mining operations from a tax credit intended for data centers. One crypto mining operation has reportedly taken advantage of this tax incentive.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is still preparing a response to the questions raised about crypto mining and its environmental impact.
Overall, the regulation of crypto mining in Pennsylvania continues to be a contentious issue involving concerns about energy consumption, environmental impact, and economic benefits. The study proposed in the bill may provide valuable insights into the industry’s effects on rural communities and the environment.