Interviews & Profiles

Putting a pause on crypto in New York

Assembly Member Anna Kelles wants to study the industry during this break.

Assembly Member Anna Kelles

Assembly Member Anna Kelles Anna Kelles

Assembly Member Anna Kelles sponsored the proof-of-work bitcoin mining moratorium bill, which imposed a two-year moratorium on the issuance of new air permits to cryptocurrency mining companies that own fossil fuel-based power plants and requires the Department of Environmental Conservation to produce an environmental impact statement on the effects of cryptocurrency mining. The bill passed the Legislature and was signed into law by the governor last year.

Are you an opponent of cryptocurrency?

I’m neutral about cryptocurrency. I am certainly very interested in the ongoing conversation. I am very interested in the underlying technology, blockchain technology, and I think that there’s some very fascinating uses for it.

What about proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining?

I do not feel that the cryptocurrency universe needs to continue with (proof-of-work) cryptocurrency mining. That is the only form of validation of cryptocurrency that uses a tremendous amount of energy. Ethereum converted from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake in mid-flight and did not have a crash, did not see any major technical difficulties, did not see a crash evaluation of the coin and overnight dropped their total global energy usage by almost 99%.

Your bill imposes an immediate moratorium on certain forms of proof-of-work cryptocurrency mining. Why is it so important to impose a limited moratorium now?

Because at the time of writing the bill, there were a total of 49 retired power plants in the state that had been retired because they could no longer compete on the market because they had antiquated technology, meaning they were less efficient, meaning that running them produced more (greenhouse gas) emissions per unit (of) fuel that was used because they’re less efficient. In the previous administration, the government phased out the use of coal-fired power plants. Seeing the trend beginning, not just in New York state but across the country, of power plants being purchased for the purpose of consolidated corporate cryptocurrency mining was the reason to combine the limited moratorium with the study. These could be converted very quickly right underneath us when we’ve just spent many years trying to clean up our grid, trying to decrease our greenhouse gases. So turning them right back on and doing it for the sole purpose of mining crypto for corporations literally sends us in the absolute wrong direction as a state. And because the trend was happening, the bill was designed to put a pause on that until we could just wrap our minds around the impact before the trends move through the state.

How would you respond to critics who say the state’s moratorium on certain forms of proof-of-work mining will harm the cryptocurrency industry?

It is a very narrow bill exclusively focused on the purchase of retired fossil fuel power plants in the state. There’s no other form of cryptocurrency mining that is subject to this legislation. In fact, because it only puts a limited moratorium on the purchasing of power plants, it is really only a limitation on the large-scale corporations. So if you are truly unemotionally looking at the bill, it actually could balance the playing field in a way that could increase the ability for boutique miners to compete.