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Advocacy groups raise environmental concerns about Kentucky cryptomines

Art Rachen

A report from Earthjustice found that Kentucky produces the most carbon dioxide emissions from cryptomines of any state in the U.S.

The report from the environmental law advocacy group estimated that the Commonwealth’s carbon footprint from cryptomining is 3.3 megatons per year.

Nearly 70% of Kentucky’s power comes from burning coal. Some cryptomines can use hundreds of megawatts for their operations, with much of that energy being drawn from “aged” coal mines, which produce greenhouse gas emissions.

“They are literally just rooms full of computers that are plugged into the grid, and run 24 hours a day, seven days a week running the computer transactions to chase after Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. They’re massive energy users,” said Thom Cmar, an attorney on the Clean Energy Team for Earthjustice.

According to a report from the Kentucky Conservation Committee, Kentucky produced 20% of the nation’s cryptoming computing power in 2022. The group's executive director Lane Boldman said that the cryptomining industry appears “attractive at first,” but results in negative impacts for the environment and on household budgets.

“Everybody’s trying to find ways to economize on their energy to get cleaner energy, and this is taking us exactly backwards on that,” says Boldman.

Boldman says that because of the power demands of cryptomining facilities, coal mines are remaining open longer than they should, which is an added environmental risk.

As cryptomines draw from the electric grid, Cmar said it will raise electrical costs for locals so the mines can operate.

“When you’re adding major, new, extremely wasteful energy sources like cryptocurrency facilities to the grid, that is a drag on the transition that needs to happen to get cleaner energy,” he said.

Cmar also raised concerns about other impacts cryptomines could have on the environment. For example, the cryptomines require a cooling system to make sure the computers do not overheat. Depending on the type of cooling system the facility uses, Cmar said this could potentially lead to discharging polluted water into a local water source. Some Kentucky communities have raised concerns about noise pollution coming from cryptomines.

Zoe Lewis is a first-year sophomore at Murray State University from Benton, Kentucky. She is majoring in journalism with a minor in media production. She enjoys reading, going to movie theaters, spending time with her family and friends, and eating good food. Zoe is an Alpha Omicron Pi sorority member in the Delta Omega chapter. She is very excited to start working at WKMS and work while learning more about NPR, reporting, journalism, and broadcasting.
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