These machines, known as mining rigs, work round the clock to find new units of cryptocurrency.
Benjamin Hall | CNBC
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a law Tuesday banning certain bitcoin mining operations that run on carbon-based power sources. For the next two years, unless a proof-of-work mining company uses 100% renewable energy, it will not be allowed to expand or renew permits, and new entrants will not be allowed to come online.
“It is the first of its kind in the country,” Hochul said in a legal filing detailing her decision.
The governor added that it was a key step for New York, as the state looks to curb its carbon footprint, by cracking down on mines that use electricity from power plants that burn fossil fuels. The law also comes as the crypto industry reels from the implosion of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX, which was once one of the most popular and trusted names in the industry.
New York’s mining law, which passed the state assembly in late April and the state senate in June, calls for a two-year moratorium on certain cryptocurrency mining operations which use proof-of-work authentication methods to validate blockchain transactions. Proof-of-work mining, which requires sophisticated gear and a lot of electricity, is used to create bitcoin, among other tokens.
Industry insiders tell CNBC it could have a domino effect across the U.S., which is currently at the forefront of the global bitcoin mining industry, accounting for 38% of the world’s miners.
“The approval will set a dangerous precedent in determining who may or may not use power in New York State,” the Chamber of Digital Commerce wrote in a statement.
It is a sentiment echoed by Kevin Zhang of digital currency company Foundry.
“Not only is it a clear signal that New York is closed for business to bitcoin miners, it sets a dangerous precedent for singling out a particular industry to ban from energy usage,” said Zhang, Foundry’s senior vice president of mining strategy.
The net effect of this, according to Perianne Boring of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, would weaken New York’s economy by forcing businesses to take jobs elsewhere.
“This is a significant setback for the state and will stifle its future as a leader in technology and global financial services. More importantly, this decision will eliminate critical union jobs and further disenfranchise financial access to the many underbanked populations living in the Empire State,” Boring previously told CNBC.
As for timing, the law took effect after governor signed off.
One section of the law involves conducting a statewide study of the environmental impact of proof-of-work mining operations on New York’s ability to reach aggressive climate goals set under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which requires New York’s greenhouse gas emissions be cut by 85% by 2050.
Boring tells CNBC the recent swell of support for the ban is related to this mandate to transition to sustainable energy.
“Proof-of-work mining has the potential to lead the global transition to more sustainable energy,” Boring told CNBC’s Crypto World, pointing to the irony of the moratorium. “The bitcoin mining industry is actually leading in terms of compliance with that Act.”
The sustainable energy mix of the global bitcoin mining industry today is estimated to be just under 60%, and the Chamber of Digital Commerce has found that the sustainable electricity mix is closer to 80% for its members mining in the state of New York.
“The regulatory environment in New York will not only halt their target – carbon-based fuel proof of work mining – but will also likely discourage new, renewable-based miners from doing business with the state due to the possibility of more regulatory creep,” said John Warren, CEO of institutional-grade bitcoin mining company GEM Mining.
A third of New York’s in-state generation comes from renewables, according to the latest available data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. New York counts its nuclear power plants toward its 100% carbon free electricity goal, and the state produces more hydroelectric power than any other state east of the Rocky Mountains.
The state also has a chilly climate, which means less energy is needed to cool down the banks of computers used in crypto mining, as well as a lot of abandoned industrial infrastructure that’s ripe for repurposing.
At the Bitcoin 2022 conference in Miami in April, former presidential candidate and New Yorker Andrew Yang told CNBC that when he speaks to people in the industry, he has found mining operations can help develop demand for renewable energy.
“In my mind, a lot of this stuff is going to end up pushing activity to other places that might not…