Residents near the Panther Creek Power Plant in Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania are expressing shock and concern over the recent news that the plant has begun using burning tires as a fuel source for cryptocurrency mining operations. The Carbon County community has a history of grappling with environmental impacts from the power plant.
Longtime resident Steve Chuckra emphasizes the area’s legacy of environmental neglect, pointing out that the power plant has been a source of contention for years. The Panther Creek Power Plant was acquired by Stronghold Digital Mining Inc. in 2021, and since then, it has received multiple violations related to unpermitted air pollution under the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The plant, which primarily used coal waste from various sites to generate electricity for cryptocurrency mining, is now incorporating waste tires into its energy mix. This involves heating used tires to specific temperatures to obtain components like steel, carbon black, and tire-derived fuel (TDF), which is then used to produce electricity for the mining farm.
Stronghold Digital Mining recently submitted a permit proposal to the DEP, seeking approval to use tires for up to 15% of its fuel, amounting to 78,000 tons. This move has prompted neighboring residents and environmental organizations to hold a virtual press conference, urging the DEP to reject the proposal due to potential health hazards.
Crypto mining, especially Bitcoin, is known for its high energy consumption. Bitcoin alone is estimated to use 110 terawatt-hours (TWh) annually, equivalent to 0.55% of global electricity production. As a result, miners are constantly seeking inexpensive or unconventional energy sources.
Improper disposal of waste tires has long been an environmental concern, with burning, burying, and grinding all carrying their own set of risks. Burning tires, in particular, releases harmful air pollutants, including carcinogens. The fumes from tire burning are extremely toxic to human health and detrimental to the environment.
Linda Christman, president of the advocacy group Save Carbon County, points out that 36% of people living within one mile of the Panther Creek plant are below the poverty line. This situation raises concerns about environmental justice in the area.
While there is debate over how energy-intensive and environmentally friendly Bitcoin mining is, there is growing interest in promoting transparency regarding energy sources used in mining operations. The recent use of tires as a fuel source highlights the ongoing challenge of finding sustainable and responsible methods for powering cryptocurrency mining activities.
In December 2022, three U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill urging crypto miners to report greenhouse gas emissions, signaling a growing emphasis on addressing the environmental impact of cryptocurrency mining.