Governor Kathy Hochul has faced unwelcome questioning about whether she’d sign the cryptocurrency mining moratorium passed in this year’s legislative session. While Lee Zeldin has said he would not sign the bill, Hochul hedged, leaving New Yorkers unsure where she stands.
The bill doesn’t ban crypto mining outright but places a two-year moratorium on air quality permits for behind-the-meter electricity production used to power the energy-intensive “proof of work” form of cryptocurrency mining.
“Behind-the-meter” means the crypto mining company has restarted a mothballed power plant to produce electricity for itself rather than buying from another power producer.
During the moratorium, the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation is supposed to craft a generic environmental impact statement for such operations. This generic statement is likely to be very strict, limiting the potential for future crypto mining development in New York unless it can operate off renewable energy. This may drive crypto miners to other states with less stringent regulations.
Advocates see behind-the-meter energy production for crypto mining as a productive use for idled power plants that would otherwise be wasted assets, and a way to engage in economic development without putting more strain on the state’s increasingly at-risk electrical grid.
By the Assembly’s own rules, all bills passed in the last legislative session should already have been transmitted to the Governor’s desk months ago, forcing Hochul to either sign or veto them. But the legislature routinely ignores this rule and waits for the Governor’s request to transmit each bill.
Currently the crypto moratorium is just one of hundreds of bills that still await executive action, but few are as high-profile, or place her in as much of an electoral bind. Veto the bill and she angers environmentalists, a key constituency; Sign the bill and she frustrates at least two big donors affiliated with the crypto industry.
No wonder she claims her administration is still studying the bill.
So far Hochul has avoided showing her hand, talking about the need for both environmental protection and jobs creation in a way that doesn’t reveal her intentions.
That makes political sense with the election looming, but it doesn’t convey a firm vision or show strong leadership — both of which New Yorkers need and deserve right now.