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

Gov. Kathy Hochul speaking Tuesday at the University at Buffalo.
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks at the University at Buffalo in this file photo.

Gov. 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 used to power computers that generate cryptocurrency by performing complex math. The process, known as proof-of-work, is very energy-intensive.

One company has already restarted 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 two sides to 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 have 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 she and her staff need more time to review the details.

“This bill came up at the very end of session. 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 or any modifications that normally occurs in the process," Hochul said.

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 found 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 election, Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, is benefiting from $1 million in spending on digital ads from a political action committee created by the founder of a major crypto currency 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 Rep. Tom Suozzi said he backs a moratorium but would like it to be 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 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 DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.