Environmental groups urge US government to take action on crypto miners

A group of eight organizations focused on the environment have called on different government agencies under the Biden administration to implement new approaches in response to Proof-of-Work and other crypto mining operations.

In a letter to the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy on Monday, the Environmental Working Group, Earthjustice, Greenpeace, the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the Seneca Lake Guardian, and the Milwaukee Riverkeeper urged the White House to enact policies aimed at curbing “the electricity use and climate pollution associated with digital currencies that rely on [PoW].” Specifically, the organizations alleged crypto mining in the United States harmed communities by creating increasing demand for electricity sourced by fossil fuels, threatened supply chains with demand for application-specific integrated circuits in rigs, created significant electronic waste, and would not “aid the transition to renewable electricity.”

The group of eight proposed the Environmental Protection Agency subject PoW mining firms to “stringent reviews” around operating permits “to mitigate the harms of cryptocurrency mining ewaste disposal in large quantities” as well as address claims of noise pollution allegedly caused by mining rigs. In addition, they requested the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs create a registry for many PoW mining operations in an effort for firms to “disclose their energy sources and quantities.”

Other recommendations included the Department of Energy implementing energy efficiency standards for PoW miners, with the limit tightened over time “to eventually eliminate” proof-of-work mining. However, the biggest ask seemed to be aimed at the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission, requesting the financial regulators limit crypto exchanges to listing digital assets meeting certain “environmental and electricity standards” as well as push back against “misleading claims regarding the environmental impacts of digital currencies.”

“Requiring registered exchanges only to list digital assets whose transactions consume electricity below a certain energy-efficient standard would drive innovation or a transition to other methods of validation,” said the environmental groups.

Related: Go green or die? Bitcoin miners aim for carbon neutrality by mining near data centers

As the crypto space continues to grow with many investors in the United States, industry leaders and lawmakers have stepped up to address issues around financial risks as well as the potential impact on the environment from Bitcoin (BTC) mining. In April, a group of 23 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to the EPA saying the “rapidly expanding cryptocurrency industry needs to be held accountable” and alleging “cryptocurrency mining is poisoning our communities.”

The Bitcoin Mining Council responded with its own letter written by MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor to EPA administrator Michael Regan on May 2, claiming that the group of lawmakers had mistaken several key issues. The industry leader placed the alleged misconception on “power generating facilities” causing pollution, not BTC mining itself.

The New York State government is currently considering a bill that could place a two-year ban on all new PoW mining facilities in the state using carbon-based fuel to power their operations. Both the Sierra Club and Seneca Lake Guardian have pushed back against mining firm Greenidge Generation Holdings’ operations at the state’s Seneca Lake.

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