The United States Call on the EPA to Determine the Environmental Legality of Mining Crypto

Concerns about cryptocurrency mining’s environmental effects have been in the spotlight for quite a while among legislators worldwide, especially legislators in the United States, who recently wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the subject.

Led by Jared Huffman, a member of the United States House of Representatives, the team of 23 legislators have addressed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate if the domestic laws in protection of the environment are followed by cryptocurrency mining enterprises. 

They primarily expressed their grave concerns in an April 20 letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, stating that cryptocurrency mining businesses in the United States may be functioning in violation of federal regulations, like the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act, to name a few.

As the letter stresses, the legislators are concerned that cryptocurrencies could be poisoning the communities in the US by saying that “efforts are currently underway to re-open closed gas and coal facilities to power the cryptocurrency industry and undermine our battle to combat the climate crisis. While some facilities claim to be “cleaner” by creating energy from coal refuse, these coal-fired power plants still emit hazardous air pollutants and leak toxic contaminants into our waterways.”

Their specific concerns have to do with “the inherently energy-inefficient “Proof-of-Work (PoW) mining technology to validate transactions,” a mechanism leveraged by the majority of noteworthy cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC), and Ethereum (ETH), among many others.

To address this apparent issue, the letter’s authors, among whom includes progressive lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, agree on the following: “the rapidly expanding cryptocurrency industry needs to be held accountable to ensure it operates in a sustainable and just manner to protect communities,” and as such, “we request that the EPA evaluate PoW mining facilities’ compliance with environmental statutes (…) and engage with the communities when reviewing permits. Further, we ask that the EPA investigate and address any harm these existing PoW facilities are causing communities including, but not limited to, ensuring that electronic waste is responsibly disposed of, and noise pollution is abated.”

In addition, the lawmakers posited that “less energy intensive cryptocurrency mining technologies, such as “Proof-of-Stake” (PoS), are available and have 99.99 percent lower energy demands than PoW to validate transactions.”

Meanwhile, policymakers worldwide are beginning to place a greater emphasis on the negative environmental effects of Proof-of-Work (PoW) mining and exploring the deployment of the Proof-of-Stake (PoS) system in its place.

The European Union Parliament was proposing legislation that would require cryptocurrencies using Proof-of-Work (PoW) systems to migrate to a more environmentally friendly system such as Proof-of-Stake (PoS), but a number of members voted against the legislation, thus, it did not go through.

Some blockchains are making strenuous efforts to migrate from PoW to PoS. The one making enormous strides is Ethereum (ETH), which has planned a Merge upgrade for later in 2022, otherwise known as Ethereum 2.0 that will enable it to transition to the Proof-of-Stake (PoS) mechanism completely.