NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. — North Tonawanda residents are standing up and speaking out to ensure their voices are heard when it comes to a proposal that could transform the Fortistar natural gas-burning power plant on Erie Avenue into a Cryptocurrency Mining Facility.
During Tuesday's public presentation representatives from Digihost Techonolgy Inc., a Canadian cryptocurrency company, tried to explain their plan via PowerPoint to a standing room of concerned residents who wanted to know what the facility would be doing, who would be running it, and at what cost to the community?
Jim Berry has lived in North Tonawanda for over twenty years and spoke up during the public comment portion of the meeting, airing his concerns over the plant itself and the type of energy that would be required in order for Bitcoin Mining to effectively happen.
"Usually these types of mining facilities are on the outskirts of the community," Berry says. "This plant is right in the middle of a neighborhood. This isn't an isolated situation. Whatever happens there is going to affect people who live very close to there."
Concerns over how a project like this could affect the environment, the local economy, and the daily lives of NT residents were among many of the questions and concerns shared by residents who took to the podium.
Nick Williams is the in-house counsel for Digihost and says the company is not looking to hide things from North Tonawanda residents. The company is looking to help grow the city and contribute in positive ways.
"Our project is different because we're jumping into a plant that is already running and we're simply continuing its run. It's not apples to apples with some other plant for example on the Finger Lakes that were shut down and then re-opened and re-fired.
Digihost says, to date, they are currently fired by 50 percent renewable energy and hope to increase that number and improve their green footprint by 30 percent by 2030.
Right now, Williams says, only basic infrastructure work has been done on-site, for example, electrical work that was approved by the city's engineers. As for the structural project itself, that still has to be reviewed and voted on by the planning board.
"We have no desire to make secrets of anything," Williams emphasizes.
As for Jim Berry and his neighbors, "I'm not an expert on this. I want more facts and I don't think that was presented.
What is Cryptocurrency? Bitcoin is one popular example of this new innovative money. According to their website, Bitcoin uses "peer-to-peer technology to operate money with no central authority or banks." Operating cryptocurrency, like this one, is done by a collective network. No one owns Bitcoin and everyone can take part in it.