NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. — Neighbors in the City of North Tonawanda who live near a facility used for mining cryptocurrency are feeling let down once again after the New York State Public Service Commission approved the transfer of a power plant to the company that operates the facility.
On Thursday, the PSC cleared the way for Digihost, a Canadian cryptocurrency company to take over the former Fortistar plant on Erie Avenue.
Digihost was the butt of noise complaints and environmental concerns when the plant began operations and testing back in February 2022. While the commission acknowledged those concerns in their ruling, they stated their oversight was only over potential impacts on consumer electricity costs, of which they found none.
For neighbors near the facility, however, the ruling meant something else.
“I feel like we're not being listened to and taken seriously,” said Karen Hance.
Hance lives on Sherwood Avenue, directly across from the Digihost plant. She’s part of a group of neighbors that has opposed the project since it was proposed, citing concerns about the unknown impact of crypto mining on the environment and since February the noise it created.
“They've reduced the noise somewhat,” Hance said.
“I still hear it in the position my house is in being so close to the facility." She estimates her home is around 800 feet away.
The project when first proposed was the source of some secrecy and neighborhood pushback, the latter of which resulted in Digihost agreeing to construct acoustic walls, to cut down on the noise. Although Thursday night those panels sat only partially finished.
Deborah Gondek also fought the project early on amid worries about energy and water use arouse for other proposed crypto facilities around the state. Her efforts continue including legal action but this week's decision was a letdown she said.
“Most municipalities like North Tonawanda don't have zoning codes or noise ordinances that address bitcoin mining so we were really counting on the public service commission,” said Gondek.
Chris Murawski, Executive Director of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York added, “Once again the citizens of Western New York are suffering from this decision of an unelected appointed body."
Murawski and his group have been working with neighbors like Gondek and Hance, advocating for environmental and other oversight of crypto mining, at both the local and state level.
The New York State Legislature did pass a crypto moratorium during their last session but it remains unsigned by Governor Hochul. When 2 On Your Side asked the governor's office about whether the legislation would be vetoed or passed we were sent remarks from Governor Hochul made three weeks prior at the New York State Fair.
“That is one of the 1,007 bills that have been on my desk. We've had a lot to do so I'll be reviewing all the positions for and against and have a chance to evaluate that in the next couple of weeks, couple of months,” said Governor Hochul.
As both Gondek and Murawski noted, while the power plant has been transferred to Digihost, the company still needs a Title V Air Permit approved by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to operate.