US Lawmakers Want Environmental Agency to Study Crypto Mining's Energy Impact

The Crypto-Asset Environmental Transparency Act would direct the EPA to impose greenhouse gas emission reporting rules on crypto mining facilities and assess their overall impact on the U.S.' environment.

AccessTimeIconDec 8, 2022 at 8:13 p.m. UTC
Updated Dec 8, 2022 at 8:57 p.m. UTC

U.S. Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) introduced a bill Thursday that would, if passed, direct the Environmental Protection Agency to study the energy usage and environmental impact of crypto mining.

Cautioning that crypto mining threatened U.S. energy goals and local power grids, the lawmakers said the Crypto-Asset Environmental Transparency Act would direct the EPA to produce a report examining the effect miners using more than 5 megawatts of power have on greenhouse gas emissions.

In a statement, Markey said the mining firms were "undermining decades of progress in our fight against climate change by putting profits over the promise of our clean energy future."

"Ensuring crypto mining companies report their greenhouse gas emissions is a necessary step toward holding them accountable and protecting communities across the country that rely on the grid to heat their homes, cook their food, and go about their daily lives," the statement read.

Markey also warned that utility companies may have to raise prices for other consumers, an issue that's led some communities to try and impose restrictions on mining firms in the past.

The bill itself refers to concerns about climate change and its growing ecological impacts, including droughts, wildfires and unusual weather events.

"Crypto-asset mining operations ... are often designed to generally increase computing requirements over time, which can lead to increased energy consumption," the bill said. "A crypto-asset network, Bitcoin, consumes more energy annually than countries such as Chile or Bangladesh consume."

Noise and water pollution are two other concerns mentioned in the bill. Furthermore, the bill would impose the same energy recommendations on mining facilities already imposed on data centers.

The document recommends the EPA propose rules to cover the crypto mining industry to ensure it is bound by greenhouse gas emission reporting and other similar rules, and assess whether any mining facilities are operating without the requisite permits.

Merkley pointed to mining facilities being powered by fossil fuels in a statement, saying this practice "has an environmental impact on climate chaos equivalent to putting 30 million gas-burning cars on the road! And a lot of that fossil electricity is generated at power plants that have a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged and frontline communities, making bad environmental justice issues worse."

His statement also mentioned mining machines being discarded after they burn out and the "strain on fragile electric grids."

A number of environmental groups have already expressed their support of the bill, according to a press release.


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Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.