North Tonawanda Press Conference June 20 2024 – Take Action, Governor Hochul, NYS DEC and NT Common Council! 89% of Title V Permits in Erie and Niagara County Expired

Today Clean Air joined North Tonawanda residents and friends from EarthJustice to call on Governor Hochul, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the North Tonawanda Common Council to take action to rein in cryptocurrency mining by Digihost Technologies at the Fortistar gas-fired power plant and by other companies statewide. This press conference follows recent coverage by the Buffalo News documenting the issues North Tonawanda residents have been grappling with.

Read the press alert by clicking here, and watch the recording below.

The following is the text of Bridge’ remarks on the expired Title V Air Permit issue at Fortistar and other facilities in Erie and Niagara County as well as statewide. Want to learn more? Here’s a link to the Comptroller’s September 2023 report, here’s the DEC’s webpage with information on all Title V air permits statewide, and here’s an earlier blog post on this topic.

Good morning! My name is Bridge Rauch, my pronouns are they/them, and I am one of the Environmental Justice organizers at the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York.

Listen, we could chat about a ton of topics here today, from the recent New York Independent Service Operators report on energy demand and how much demand is coming from cryptomining to how the flailing fossil fuel sector is supporting cryptocurrency mining to remain viable, but to state the obvious, it’s hot. Because of the heat emergency today, driven in part by climate change, I will keep my remarks short and to the point – the Fortistar facility, being used by Digihost to mine for cryptocurrency, has a Title V air permit that expired back in 2021. 

A Title V air permit, for those unfamiliar, is required by Title V of the Clean Air Act for all major air pollution sources. Here in NY, the Department of Environmental Conservation manages permit enforcement, applications, and renewals.

Digihost is allowed to continue to operate under that expired permit, initially issued to Fortistar, due to the rules set by the New York State Administrative Procedure Act or SAPA as long as NY DEC continues to review their application for renewal and the transfer of the permit.

As absurd as this all seems, we have learned from the research we have done into this permit that this is just a fraction of a larger statewide issue – according to DEC’s own data on issued Title V Permits, which you can find on their website, of the 306 Title V permits statewide, 182 are currently expired – that’s 59% of permits statewide that are expired. 

Within Erie and Niagara counties, which are home to 33 Title V facilities, a whopping 89% of Title V permits are expired! The vast majority of these are within Environmental Justice areas under DEC definitions. Several of these permits expired well over a decade ago, with two that expired back in 2012.

As the NYS Comptroller’s Office noted in their September 2023 audit, “the longer these Title V permits remain extended under SAPA, the greater the risk that facilities are not operating under requirements that align with the most up-to-date air pollution control standards” and what we’ve found from annual emissions reporting is that some of these facilities have exceeded their permitted emissions standards.

We need NYS DEC to prioritize Title V permit renewals and renewals of the permits for smaller scale facilities which share many of the same issues. We need DEC to step up inspection and enforcement of these facilities as well, and rein in emissions.

We need NYS DEC to prioritize the Fortistar facility here in particular, which has proven to be a community nuisance for all the reasons you have heard today, and is being used for an industry that is non-productive and does not contribute to the local economy.

We’re under a heat dome today – while we are all well aware of the immediate acute dangers of heat, one issue we have heard less about is how it worsens air quality. Fossil fuel emissions when heated create ground level ozone and smog. Climate justice and environmental justice are intertwined – reducing our emissions from fossil fuel use not only reduces the harm of climate change, it also makes our air cleaner and safer to breathe. By continuing to use old facilities like Fortistar, especially for large energy consumers like cryptocurrency, we are doing the opposite, and endangering not only ourselves but also future generations. 

We need action NOW. NYS DEC, we need you to do the right thing here and get on top of these permit renewals and enforcement of existing permit rules! We need DEC to stop sitting on Digihost/Fortistar’s air permit application, to bring it to the public review process, and follow the precedent DEC set last year with Greenidge Generation by denying Digihost/Fortistar’s air permit.


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