The Fortistar power plant in upstate New York has been taken over by a cryptocurrency mining company, and environmental activists are suing to stop it.

Digihost describes themselves as a Blockchain Technology Company with a focus on Bitcoin mining.

“Our growth-oriented strategy is to continuously exploit opportunities that increase mining hash rate; reduce energy costs through favorable contracts and vertical integration; and, increase the Company’s inventory of Bitcoin mined and held,” reads their website.

The Fortistar power plant, in North Tonawanda close to Niagara Falls, is a fuel oil and natural gas power station built in 1993. It was only ever used as a ‘peaker’ plant, running only when demand in the area needed extra support. The most it ever ran in a year was 74 days, and most years closer to 10 days. Under Digihost ownership to power their cryptocurrency mining activities, it would run nonstop, an average increase of 3,000% of time and emissions. The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) knew this and greenlit the takeover anyway.

The Clean Air Coalition of Western New York and Earthjustice filed suit with the state supreme court that the PSC’s permitting of the purchase violates New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), a law passed in 2019. The CLCPA sets strict targets about reducing emissions in the state by 2030, targets this takeover will set back all by itself. It also imposes stricter protections about ‘disadvantaged communities’ which have historically born the brunt of industrial pollution, communities like those who are the majority population of North Tonawanda.

Other countries, including China, have already banned cryptocurrency mining for its environmental impact and excessive energy use. Currently, the US is the most popular place for mining, because private companies can buy power plants like this. This November, NY Governor Kathy Hochul passed a two-year ban on new operations, but the Fortistar purchase happened before that, and so is exempt.

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