Unions shoot down New York's crypto mining moratorium, for now at least


A bill that would put a three-year moratorium on cryptocurrency mining in New York has died in the lower house of the U.S. state's legislature.

A staffer for the bill's author, Assemblywoman Anna Kelles, confirmed to The Block that the bill had met its end, saying "the roadblock was the unions." 

Specifically, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers wrote a memorandum of opposition (embedded in this report) saying that the bill unfairly "targets the use of a specific technology."

The union further wrote: "The bill fails to take into account the valid benefits of the technology behind the industry."

Regarding their position on labor, the staffer said "we don't think this industry will bring in many long-term jobs, more short-term work for electricians setting up the plants.'"

Kelles' effort to put a pause on mining operations within New York come as bitcoin miners are moving into old power plants in the state's more rural north. Many of these coal-fired plants had previously gone offline for most of the year due to advancing environmental regulation. As she told The Block last month:

"The thing that's frustrating is that not only are they coming in and buying up old peaker plants that are the least efficient of all of the technologies. They are turning them on — where they previously might have run two days out of the year — they are now running 365 days of the year, 24/7."

It seems that the assembly did not agree with Kelles' assessment of the problem, or at least did not view it as significant enough to freeze a specific and growing industry.  

But not so fast — two companion bills in the State Senate live on, with the Senate version of the moratorium passing on June 8. While the original bill would block all crypto mining operations, it was, however, recently amended to be friendlier to greener mining. Instead of all miners, the amended version would stop permits going to any: 

"Electric generating facility that utilizes a carbon-based fuel and that provides, in whole or in part, behind-the-meter electric energy consumed or utilized by a facility that uses proof-of-work authentication methods to validate blockchain transactions."

While this new bill can't pass into law without going through the Assembly, Kelles plans on accomplishing just that. In a statement to The Block, she said:

"We will work to pass this legislation in the 2022 session, but need to make sure our climate goals are not compromised by rampant energy usage from currency mining in the short term."

The issue is especially timely as mining operations are setting up shop in the United States for the first time, where they must work to cope with developing regulatory expectations. In particular, this includes environmental concerns over the bitcoin network's energy use.

IBEW MIO- A.7389B-S.6486B by MichaelPatrickMcSweeney

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Aug 11, 2021, 5:18PM UTC