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Pennsylvania State, Crypto Miner Sued for Polluting Environment

A court filing revealed that Pennsylvania state authorities have been unsuccessful in safeguarding residents from the carbon dioxide emissions of a cryptocurrency mining rig.

Save Carbon County, an environmental NGO in Pennsylvania, took legal action on Tuesday by filing a lawsuit against Stronghold Digital Mining in a state court. The lawsuit accuses the company of utilizing waste coal and tires to generate energy for its cryptocurrency mining activities.

According to the complaint, Stronghold’s mining operations in northeastern Pennsylvania have inflicted significant environmental damage through their energy-intensive Bitcoin proof-of-work process.

In an unprecedented move, the lawsuit also names Pennsylvania state as a defendant, as reported by Reuters. Aaron Freiwald, the attorney representing the NGO, highlighted that this legal action signifies the first instance of the state being sued for permitting cryptocurrency mines, thereby allegedly violating citizens’ constitutional right to a clean environment.

According to the environmental group, Stronghold Digital Mining has allegedly been emitting six million tons of carbon dioxide annually. Despite this significant environmental impact, Pennsylvania has not taken action to prohibit crypto mining or promote less energy-intensive methods such as “proof of stake” verification.

Save Carbon County has accused Stronghold of causing public nuisance, public liability, and negligence, holding the company responsible for pollution resulting from its crypto mining activities. The group is seeking compensation from Stronghold for the environmental damage it has caused.

In response to these allegations, a spokesperson for Stronghold denied them, stating that the company is actively involved in environmental remediation efforts in the area.

“Stronghold’s facilities have contributed to the cleanup of millions of tons of waste coal and have reclaimed over 1,050 acres of previously blighted land, transforming them into sports fields, parks, and fishing spots for local communities.”

From Burning Tires to Greener Ways

In 2021, Stronghold Digital Mining Inc. acquired Panther Creek with the intention of utilizing it to generate cryptocurrency. However, since then, the plant has reportedly received at least seven violations related to unpermitted air pollution from the Department of Environmental Protection.

In addition to transporting coal waste from various sites, Stronghold has resorted to burning tires as part of its power generation mix.

Russell Zerbo, the federal advocacy coordinator at the Clean Air Council at Penn State, emphasized to Cryptonews that burning tires leads to a significant increase in harmful air pollution.

“Burning tires at the Panther Creek plant in Nesquehoning, PA would elevate polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) pollution levels. PAH pollution encompasses numerous carcinogens.”

Zerbo further emphasized that there are no viable precautionary measures to conduct sustainable mining.

“Crypto mining is inherently inefficient in terms of electricity usage, and there are no sustainable practices to mitigate its impact.”

Moreover, Lena Klaaßen, co-founder of the Crypto Carbon Ratings Institute (CCRI), stressed the importance of transparency regarding the energy sources utilized in Bitcoin mining.

In an interview with Cryptonews, Klaaßen highlighted that entities holding Bitcoins for on-chain transactions bear responsibility for Bitcoin-related emissions as part of their scope 3 (value chain) emissions.

“Energy consumption is intrinsic to the Proof of Work consensus mechanism underlying Bitcoin. Given the pressing climate crisis, the industry’s focus should prioritize decarbonization efforts.”

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Cryptocurrency is essentially virtual money that operates in a decentralized manner, not through a bank but directly on multiple independent computers.

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