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Finger Lakes Democrats won't vote for Hochul if she doesn't sign cryptomining moratorium

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Cryptocurrency Mining Moratorium

The Greenidge Generation bitcoin mining facility, in a former coal plant by Seneca Lake in Dresden, New York, is shown in this photo from Nov. 29. A milestone measure that would tap the brakes on the spread of cryptocurrency mining operations burning fossil fuels in New York has passed the state Legislature. The bill approved June 3 by the state Senate would establish a two-year moratorium on new and renewed air permits for fossil fuel power plants used for energy-intensive “proof-of-work” cryptomining. The plant also produces power for the state's electricity grid. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

Several Democrats in the Finger Lakes region are giving Gov. Kathy Hochul an ultimatum: If she doesn't sign the cryptomining moratorium, they won't vote for her. 

The state Legislature approved a bill that would impose a two-year moratorium on permits for power plants that support cryptocurrency mining operations, specifically those that use "proof-of-work authentication methods to validate blockchain transactions," according to the text of the measure. Hochul is reviewing the bill. 

So far, Hochul hasn't indicated whether she will sign it. Environmental advocates are urging her to act quickly to prevent cryptomining operations from opening in New York and to halt the renewal of permits for existing facilities, such as Greenidge Generation's plant in Yates County. 

With the environmental factors apparently not enough to persuade Hochul to immediately sign the bill, proponents of the moratorium are applying political pressure. Hochul is in a three-way primary for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams round out the primary field. 

Lodi Supervisor Kyle Barnhart, the lone Democrat on the Seneca County Board of Supervisors, says he won't vote for Hochul if she doesn't sign the cryptomining moratorium. He spearheaded the effort in Seneca County to pass a resolution urging the governor to sign the cryptomining moratorium and to not renew Greenidge Generation's permits. 

"Protecting our environment is a top priority for upstate New Yorkers, which is why I was so excited to have our first governor in 100 years hail from upstate," Barnhart said. "Unfortunately, Governor Hochul seems to care more about pleasing her billionaire crypto donors. Reasonable Democrats are losing faith in her every day she fails to act." 

The other Democrats who say they may not support Hochul if she doesn't sign the cryptomining moratorium include Tompkins County Legislator Anne Koreman, Tompkins County Democratic Committee Vice Chair Stacey Dimas and Martha Robertson, the former chair of the Tompkins County Legislature. 

Vanessa Fajans-Turner, an Ithaca Democrat who briefly ran for Congress this year, made the financial drivers of climate change a top priority during her campaign. She argued that Hochul and New York can't be viewed as climate leaders if they allow cryptomining to continue. 

"Too often money speaks louder than words, and any politician who allows the interests of a small minority of crypto donors to undermine their climate leadership will lose my support and put our economic and climate future in jeopardy," Fajans-Turner said. 

The complaints from Finger Lakes Democrats may not be enough to derail Hochul's political ambitions — she has a big lead in the polls for the Democratic nomination — but it could get the governor's attention since she has enjoyed strong support from upstaters. She hails from Buffalo and as lieutenant governor, she made regular visits to the Finger Lakes region. 

Along with the lack of action on the cryptomining moratorium legislation, there is another reason advocates of the legislation are concerned about Hochul's stance. They point out that she has accepted donations from crypto interests. 

Irene Weiser, a coordinator for Fossil Free Tompkins and a former Caroline town councilmember, noted that Hochul promised to clean up Albany when she was sworn in as governor. 

"Now I'm not so sure anything has changed," Weiser said. "She can prove she and her administration can't be bought by signing the crypto moratorium bill before the primary, by having her (state Department of Environmental Conservation) deny Greenidge's air emissions permit in that timeframe too, and by giving the crypto money back." 

Politics reporter Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.

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