(Photo: CryptoWallet.com/Wikimedia Commons)A group of Democratic legislators have formally requested that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) monitor US cryptocurrency mining emissions.
In a letter sent Friday, lawmakers pointed out that the cryptocurrency market’s rapid growth raises serious climate and energy consumption concerns. Having just completed a preliminary investigation into major crypto miners’ consumption and carbon emissions, they urged that the EPA and DOE “use all available authorities at [their] disposal…to require reporting of energy use and emissions from crypto miners.” Six total legislators signed the letter: Senators Elizabeth Warren, Edward Markey, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Jeffrey Merkley, as well as Representatives Jared Huffman and Rashida Tlaib.
Given cryptocurrency mining’s relative novelty, there “is no national or state reporting requirement or compilation of the locations of crypto mining facilities in the United States, and no federal regulations specifically governing crypto mining,” the letter points out. This precludes Americans from having any reliable data regarding the market’s impact on the environment or the energy grid. The legislators’ communications with six of the country’s major US crypto mining operations—Bit Deer, Bit Digital, Greenidge, Marathon, Riot, and Stronghold—revealed that they had a collective capacity of 1,045.3 MW, or “nearly enough capacity to power all the residences in Houston, Texas.”
A few of the contacted crypto miners claim to be at least somewhat climate-conscious, but the legislators’ letter imparts some skepticism. Bit Digital, for instance, says it has taken steps toward decarbonization by signing the Crypto Climate Accord, a private sector-led initiative that aims to decarbonize the blockchain industry. But the Accord is “non-binding and [does] not hold crypto miners to specific actions,” write the lawmakers. Signing the Accord makes for great publicity, but no one follows up to make sure the outlined actions are actually taken. Meanwhile, Riot claims to almost exclusively run on hydroelectricity…but at just one facility. Its other, larger space relies on coal and natural gas, which are the other crypto miners’ mainstays. In fact, just three of the contacted crypto miners emit 1.6 million tons of carbon each year combined.
Warren, Markey, and the other signatories urged the EPA and DOE to use current federal law to monitor emissions and consumption levels at each of these companies, as well as other US crypto miners. They specifically pointed to Section 114 of the Clean Air Act, which “broadly authorizes” the EPA to require companies to provide emissions-related information for various pollution and compliance purposes. The legislators also mentioned 15 US Code 772, which allows the Administrator to “collect, assemble, evaluate, and analyze energy information” when the company in question owns or operates an energy supply or consumes large sums of energy. Some states have also taken action against cryptocurrency mining; New York passed a moratorium restricting further cryptocurrency growth earlier this year after concerns about its impact on state energy usage.
“This collected data would enable valuable public policy activities, including better monitoring of energy use and trends, better evidence basis for policy making, improved data for national mitigation analyses, better abilities for evaluating technology policies for the sector, and better modeling of national and regional grid loads and transitions, among other purposes,” the letter reads.