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Hochul will delay action on a bill to ban some types of crypto mining for two years

A Bitcoin logo is displayed on an ATM in Hong Kong in 2017. More workers may soon be able to stake some of their 401(k) retirement savings to bitcoin.
Kin Cheung
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin rely on a form of mining known as proof-of-work for their creation. Governor Kathy Hochul is considering a bill that imposes a moratorium on permits for this practice.

Governor Kathy Hochul is indicating she may wait to decide whether to sign into law a bill that would ban some types of crypto mining in the state for two years.

The bill imposes a moratorium on new and renewed permits at fossil fuel-burning plants for a type of crypto mining known as proof-of-work. The process used to create Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies relies on large amounts of energy.

One company has already repurposed a closed coal-burning plant on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes, and is fueling it with natural gas for crypto mining. Environmental groups strongly oppose the plant. Similar projects using older defunct power plants for crypto mining are also planned.

Hochul, who has been endorsed in her run for election by a union that supports jobs at the crypto mining plants, has been undecided, saying she can see both sides of the issue.

In response to a reporter’s question on Tuesday, the governor indicated that she might not act on the bill for some time, leaving open the possibility that she might not sign or veto the measure until after Election Day.

“We’ll be looking at all the bills very, very closely,” Hochul said. “So we’ll have to a lot of work to do over the next six months.”

Later that day, at a debate with her Democratic primary opponents that was held by WCBS-TV and CBS Newsradio 880, Hochul said the measure was not approved by the state Senate until the final hours of the session, and she and her staff need more time to review the details.

“This bill came up at the very end of session," she said. "We didn’t have a chance to have our legislative team engage with it, to work out any problems or to say yes or no to any modifications that naturally occur in the process.”

Hochul said she has concerns about restarting fossil fuel plants to run crypto mining operations, but did not tip her hand on how she will act on the bill.

The governor’s political opponents have seized on a New York Times report that finds Hochul received a $40,000 donation from an executive of a crypto mining company that operates in a former aluminum manufacturing plant in Massena. Her running mate in the 2022 elections, Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado, is benefiting from $1 million in spending on digital ads from a political action committee, or PAC, created by the founder of a major cryptocurrency exchange.

During the debate, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said there is a “through line” between Hochul’s campaign donations and her policy decisions, including the potential delay on deciding about the crypto mining moratorium.

“And you cannot ignore the connection between money going to a candidate and then not doing what’s right,” Williams said.

Williams, who supports the ban, said he’s not against all forms of crypto mining, just the methods that contribute to climate change.

Long Island Congressman Tom Suozzi said he backs a moratorium, but would like it to be in place for less than two years.

Hochul said the campaign donations have nothing to do with her decisions.

“There is no connection between any support I’ve received and decisions, because I’ll always do what’s in the best interests of New Yorkers,” Hochul said. “And that has not changed.”

Yvonne Taylor with Seneca Lake Guardian, a group that is trying to protect the lake and that lobbied for the moratorium, said Hochul can prove that the donations aren’t influencing her by quickly signing the bill into law.

In a statement, Taylor asked Hochul to “put New Yorkers first, not big money crypto billionaires.”

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.