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Huffman Leads Colleagues in Letter Calling for Increased Oversight of Cryptocurrency’s Environmental Impacts

April 21, 2022

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Representative Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), Chair of the Natural Resources Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee and member of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, led his colleagues in a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan regarding the environmental impacts of cryptocurrency mining operations.

“We have serious concerns regarding reports that cryptocurrency facilities across the country are polluting communities and are having an outsized contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. As cryptocurrency gains popularity, it is essential to understand the environmental risks and pollution associated with this industry,” the members wrote in the letter.

“We request that the EPA evaluate “Proof-of-Work” mining facilities’ compliance with environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and engage with the communities when reviewing permits. Further, we ask that the EPA investigate and address any harm these existing PoW facilities are causing communities including, but not limited to, ensuring that electronic waste is responsibly disposed of, and noise pollution is abated. As cryptocurrency continues to gain popularity and demand more mining, we must ensure communities are not left with the toxic burdens associated with this technology,” the members continued.

In addition to Rep. Huffman, the letter was signed by Representatives Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Andre Carson (IN-07), Kathy Castor (FL-11), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Diana DeGette (CO-01), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Donald McEachin (VA-04), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Jerry McNerney (CA-09), Marie Newman (IL-03), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), John P. Sarbanes (MD-03), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Brad Sherman (CA-30), Mark Takano (CA-41), Dina Titus (NV-01), and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13).

The full letter can be viewed here or below:

The Honorable Michael Regan

Administrator

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, D.C. 20004

Dear Administrator Regan:

We write to request that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ensure cryptocurrency mining facilities are not violating foundational environmental statutes like the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act. We have serious concerns regarding reports that cryptocurrency facilities across the country are polluting communities and are having an outsized contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. As cryptocurrency gains popularity, it is essential to understand the environmental risks and pollution associated with this industry.

We applaud President Joe Biden’s Executive Order initiating a sweeping review of the federal government’s approach to cryptocurrencies, including reducing their negative climate impacts and examining the energy use associated with crypto mining. Further, we commend your recent decision denying extensions for the Ameren and Greenidge cryptocurrency mining facilities to continue operating the coal ash ponds on their properties past a mandatory deadline. The rapidly expanding cryptocurrency industry needs to be held accountable to ensure it operates in a sustainable and just manner to protect communities.

Efforts are currently underway to re-open closed gas and coal facilities to power the cryptocurrency industry and undermine our battle to combat the climate crisis. While some facilities claim to be “cleaner” by creating energy from coal refuse, these coal-fired power plants still emit hazardous air pollutants and leak toxic contaminants into our waterways. Cryptocurrency mining is poisoning our communities.

Of particular concern is the inherently energy-inefficient “Proof-of-Work” (PoW) mining technology to validate transactions. PoW-based cryptocurrencies include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero, and Zcash. A single Bitcoin transaction could power the average U.S. household for a month. According to estimates by researchers, Bitcoin produces annually carbon emissions comparable to Greece. Less energy intensive cryptocurrency mining technologies, such as “Proof-of-Stake” (PoS), are available and have 99.99 percent lower energy demands than PoW to validate transactions.

PoW mining relies on massive server farms, which, in addition to contributing to significant greenhouse gas emissions, results in major electronic waste challenges due to the highly specialized and short-lived computing hardware needed to secure the network. Millions of devices quickly become obsolete, leading to large amounts of electronic waste. According to estimates by researchers, Bitcoin mining alone produces almost 30,700 tons of electronic waste every year. The industry needs to be held accountable for this waste and discouraged from creating it.

Communities around cryptocurrency mining facilities from New York, Tennessee, to Georgia have reported significant noise pollution. The Noise Control Act of 1972 and the Quiet Communities Act of 1978 grants EPA the authority to investigate and study noise and evaluate the effectiveness of existing regulations for protecting the public health and welfare. It is critically important that the EPA uses these authorities to adequately protect communities across the U.S being disrupted by these cryptocurrency facilities. 

We request that the EPA evaluate PoW mining facilities’ compliance with environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and engage with the communities when reviewing permits. Further, we ask that the EPA investigate and address any harm these existing PoW facilities are causing communities including, but not limited to, ensuring that electronic waste is responsibly disposed of, and noise pollution is abated. As cryptocurrency continues to gain popularity and demand more mining, we must ensure communities are not left with the toxic burdens associated with this technology.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. The concerns we have outlined above are serious and warrant immediate attention. People living near crypto mining facilities are already suffering the effects of air, water, and noise pollution from these facilities. We acknowledge and appreciate your continued work to investigate and reduce the risks posed by industries such as cryptocurrency PoW mining to vulnerable and underserved communities. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

[Members of Congress]

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