Pennsylvania crypto-mining firm eyes burning tires for Bitcoin
Experts argue that tire combustion can produce highly hazardous compounds associated with cancer and are known to be hard to degrade in the environment.
Aiming to further produce Bitcoin, Pennsylvania-based crypto-mining company Stronghold Digital Mining is looking to burn tires, raising health and environmental concerns by residents and environmental groups, The Guardian reported on Friday.
According to the news website, the production of Bitcoin requires a tremendous amount of energy. Its power usage is predicted to be 113 terawatt-hours per year, which is nearly the amount of electricity consumed by Kazakhstan, the Philippines, and Ukraine in 2022.
Since 2021, when Stronghold purchased the Panther Creek power plant in Nesquehoning, Pennsylvania, it has been burning coal waste to generate inexpensive electricity for Bitcoin, The Guardian indicated.
It explained that although the disposal of coal waste can aid in the remediation of damaged soil, the process releases greenhouse gases and other toxic pollutants. It can take twice as much waste coal to generate the same amount of energy as regular coal.
The firm also claims that it occasionally needs to burn tire-derived fuel, which is generated from shredded vehicle tires, to improve the efficiency of waste-coal combustion.
The cryptocurrency miner, which is subsidized by the state to burn waste coal, enjoys temporary authorization to test the usage of tire-derived fuel. It is also seeking permanent authorization to use tires as up to 15% of its fuel, or 78,000 tonnes.
Although environmental organizations decry the practice, the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2016 deemed burning tires for fuel as better than landfilling them.
Stronghold Spokesperson Naomi Harrington told The Guardian that additives such as tire fuel "are especially needed when the quality of the coal refuse is low in energy content."
"It poses risks to the health of people living nearby," pointed out Charles McPhedran, an attorney with Earthjustice, an organization that is challenging the company’s tire bid.
"This sort of disposal of tires is a last resort."
Tire combustion can produce highly hazardous compounds associated with cancer and are known to be hard to degrade in the environment. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), some of which are carcinogenic, are also linked to tire combustion.
"They are clearly looking to reduce their fuel costs," considered Rob Altenburg of the PennFuture local environmental group, adding that "there is no analysis for how this will add to the existing burden of legacy pollution in the area."
The Panther Creek power plant is within two miles of communities designated as environmental justice regions by the state. Residents in Carbon County and environmental groups have written to the county commissioner and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to express their concerns.
The DEP issued Stronghold Digital Mining seven citations for failing to meet emission guidelines.
The firm claimed in a statement to The Guardian that its activities use the "best available control technology for air pollution controls."
It also alleged that by burning waste coal, "Stronghold has reclaimed over 1,050 acres of once-unusable land in Pennsylvania. Without these operations, the waste coal would remain unremediated and continue to harm local communities by polluting waterways and emitting toxins into the atmosphere without any sort of emissions control."