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Hochul will delay action on a bill to ban some types of cryptomining

New York state Capitol
Jim Levulis

New York Governor Kathy Hochul is indicating she may wait to decide whether to sign into law a bill that would ban some types of cryptomining in the state for two years.

The bill imposes a moratorium on new and renewed permits at fossil fuel-burning plants for a type of cryptomining known as proof-of-work. The process to create bitcoin relies on large amounts of energy.

One company has already restarted a closed coal-burning plant on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes, and is fueling it with natural gas for cryptomining. Environmental groups strongly oppose the plant. Similar projects using older defunct power plants for cryptomining are also planned.

Hochul, who has been endorsed in her run for election by a union that supports jobs at the cryptomining plants, has been undecided, saying she can see both sides of the issue.

In response to a reporter’s question on Tuesday, the governor indicated that she might not act on the bill for some time, leaving open the possibility that she might not sign or veto the measure until after Election Day.

“We’ll be looking at all the bills very, very closely,” Hochul said. “So we have to a lot of work to do over the next six months.”

Later that day, at a debate with her Democratic primary opponents that was held by WCBS-TV and CBS Newsradio 880, Hochul says the measure was not approved by the state Senate until the final hours of the session, and she and her staff need more time to review the details.

“This bill came up at the very end of session, we didn’t have a chance to have our legislative team engage with it, to work out any problems, or to say yes or no or any modifications that normally occurs in the process.”

Hochul says she has concerns about restarting fossil fuel plants to run cryptomining operations, but did not tip her hand on how she will act on the bill.

The governor’s political opponents have seized on a New York Times report that finds Hochul received a $40,000 donation from an executive of a cryptomining company that operates in a former aluminum manufacturing plant in Massena. Her running mate in the 2022 elections, Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado, is benefiting from $1 million in spending on digital ads from a political action committee, or PAC, created by the founder of a major crypto currency exchange.

During the debate, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said there is a “through line” between Hochul’s campaign donations and her policy decisions, include the potential delay on deciding about the crypto mining moratorium.

“And you cannot ignore the connection between money going to a candidate, and then not doing what’s right,” said Williams.

Williams, who supports the ban, says he’s not against all forms of cryptomining, just the methods that contribute to climate change.

Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi said he backs a moratorium, but would like it to be less than two years.

Hochul says the campaign donations have nothing to do with her decisions.

“There is no connection between any support I’ve received and decisions, because I’ll always do what’s in the best interests of New Yorkers,” Hochul said. “And that has not changed.”

Yvonne Taylor with Seneca Lake Guardian, a group that is trying to protect the lake and that lobbied for the moratorium, says Hochul can prove that the donations aren’t influencing her by quickly signing the bill into law. In a statement, Taylor asks Hochul to “put New Yorkers first, not big money, crypto billionaires.”

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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