Stronghold Digital Mining, a Pennsylvanian crypto mining company, is seeking approval to produce up to 15% of its energy using shredded tires at its Panther Creek plant in Nesquehoning. Local environmental activists are preparing to oppose the initiative. 

According to local media, Stronghold filed an application with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in July. However, the information only broke into the public sphere at the end of August. Officially, the company requested the use of so-called tire-derived fuel, citing the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) approval to use the energy source at other industrial facilities in the state.

TDF has been legal in the U.S. since 1991 and, combined with other fuels, is being used at four plants in Pennsylvania. However, local environment activists highlight the dubious status of the facilities already using TDF and insist that the crypto mining facility shouldn’t be granted permission. Russell Zerbo, an advocate with the Clean Air Council, said on the environment-focused West Pennsylvania radio show, The Allegheny Front:

“Because [Panther Creek] uses the electricity it produces to generate cryptocurrency, rather than selling that electricity to the energy grid, the plant should be completely re-permitted as a solid waste incinerator that would be subject to increased air pollution monitoring requirements.”

Charles McPhedran, an attorney with public interest environmental law organization Earthjustice, said that sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions skyrocketed after Stronghold took over the Panther Creek plant in 2021. The company didn’t shy away from using coal to mine crypto by consuming the supply of the waste coal generously available in Pennsylvania. According to some estimates, two billion cubic yards of waste coal are still polluting the environment throughout the state’s territory. 

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Stronghold representative clarified the technology behind its coal waste consumption:  "Waste coal is classified as Tier II renewable by the state of Pennsylvania, which puts it on par with a major hydro plant. Stronghold brings the waste coal from these sites and to its facilities, where using CFB (fluidized bed boilers) converts the waste coal to energy. The process removes toxins, and the resulting byproducts are power to generate electricity and also beneficial ash."

The company's spokeperson also revealed that not a single member from Penn Future, Save Carbon County, and Earth Justice turned up to address or object turned up at the Nesquehoning Borough Council meeting last week to discuss the situation: "No other locals brought the matter up for discussion. We believe that the local community is supportive of our overall endeavors."

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Recently, Stronghold revealed its financial results for Q2 of 2023. It mined 626 Bitcoin (BTC) during the period, which is 43% more than in Q4 of 2022. It represents a 1% sequential growth compared to Q1 of 2023, despite the Bitcoin network hash rate rise of 39% and 23% during the same periods, respectively. The company generated revenue of $18.2 million and a net loss of $11.7 million.

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