Dresden power plant

The Greenidge power plant burned coal until its 2011 closing. The current owner of the property is converting the fuel used at the electricity-generating facility from coal to natural gas.

DRESDEN — Three environmental groups and 30 individuals are seeking an injunction to stop Greenidge Generation’s plan to construct four new buildings so it can expand its bitcoin mining operation.

Buffalo attorney Richard Lippes filed an Article 78 proceeding in state Supreme Court of Yates County Dec. 17 on behalf of The Sierra Club, the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake Guardian, and more than two-dozen people. Greenidge, the town of Torrey, and Torrey’s Planning Board were named as defendants.

The Article 78 claims the Connecticut-based company and Torrey officials violated the State Environmental Quality Review process by not taking the mandated “hard look” at the environmental impacts of the project and requiring an environmental impact statement. Specifically, the petition claims the expansion will generate an increase in the discharge of heated cooling water back into the lake, contributing to such negatives impacts as harmful algal blooms and impacts on fish populations, as well as increased noise from the 24/7 operation.

The litigation focuses on the Torrey Planning Board’s October 2019 approval of Greenidge’s request to allow for data and bitcoin operations while considering the plant as a Type 1 project under SEQR. Type 1 projects typically require an EIS, but the Planning Board waived that requirement. Later, the Planning Board gave its approval to the construction of the four buildings as an “unlisted action” under SEQR and not requiring an EIS.

The petition notes that SEQR regulations mandate a project that will use more than 2 million gallons of water a day must be designated a Type 1 project. Greenidge’s permit allows it to withdraw nearly 160 million gallons of water from Seneca Lake each day to cool the generating turbines by way of a pass-through system, not a closed-loop system, thus resulting in the discharge of heated water back into the lake.

Michael McKeon, a Greenidge spokesman, released a statement from company attorney Kevin McAuliffe on Monday.

“This lawsuit is another attempt to circumvent the prior losses which the opponents of the Greenidge project have been dealt by the state’s judicial system,” McAuliffe wrote. “We appreciate the strong support we have received from local government leaders. As was recently reaffirmed by the DEC, Greenidge possesses all of the required permits from DEC and is operating in full compliance with those permits. A majority of the alleged harms complained of in this new action relates to environmental issues associated with the use of Seneca Lake water.”

McAuliffe said the Torrey Planning Board does not have the authority to negate those rights granted to Greenidge in its validly existing permits.

“This complaint seeks to re-litigate those same environmental issues repeatedly determined by the courts in favor of the DEC and Greenidge,” McAuliffe said. “As such, there once again is nothing to see here.”

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