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Lawyers respond to legal battle against cryptocurrency and Gov. Shapiro

Residents held an update on their lawsuit against Stronghold Digital Mining, a cryptocurrency company, on May 7 at the Nesquehoning Recreational Center.
Isabela Weiss | WVIA News | Report for America
Residents held an update on their lawsuit against Stronghold Digital Mining, a cryptocurrency company, on May 7 at the Nesquehoning Recreational Center.

Nesquehoning residents prepare legal arguments to challenge the Commonwealth and a cryptocurrency company.

Save Carbon County, a grassroots organization, and Freiwald Law sued Stronghold Digital Mining, along with Governor Josh Shapiro, on allegations of environmental pollution and claiming tax credits, according to the lawsuit filed on March 26.

They argue the Shapiro Administration enables Stronghold and its subsidiary, Panther Creek Electric Generating Facility, to pollute the environment. Stronghold received over $20 million in renewable energy tax credits from the state last year, according to the lawsuit.

Panther Creek burns waste coal to generate electricity for cryptocurrency mining.

Stronghold’s CEO Greg Beard said the company is entitled to tax credits as some of that electricity benefits the grid. Jordon Qureshi, Stronghold's public relations consultant, emailed April 11 that the plant “supplied power…for 259 days between January 1, 2023, and November 13, 2023.”

Freiwald attorney Zack Feinberg said Stronghold must provide documentation to confirm they support the grid.

“There is no public information that I’ve seen about what electricity Stronghold sells back to the grid from their plant here at Panther Creek. We’ve asked for that information from DEP, we’ve asked for that information from Stronghold themselves and we look forward to getting that information in discovery in the lawsuit,” said Feinberg.

DEP is the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. It also is listed as a defendant alongside Shapiro and Stronghold.

Feinberg described the documents Freiwald Law is working on getting from Stronghold.

“Some of the information we’re trying to receive is documents showing: What they’re doing with the coal ash after they burn it at their plant? Where are they then dropping off their pollution from what they’re creating at Panther Creek?”

He listed other documents, including revenue information and documentation of Panther Creek’s environmental violations.

Panther Creek received 18 environmental safety violations since Stronghold took over in 2021. That data comes from the DEP’s eFACTS website.

Beard accounted Stronghold's violations to the DEP holding Panther Creek to a higher standard than other power plants.

“At Panther Creek, we hold ourselves to some of the highest standards within the industry and strive to meet them consistently. Our facility is unique in that it is assessed on an hourly basis, requiring any inconsistencies to be corrected within that hour to prevent them from escalating into violations,” said Beard. “This is in contrast to other plants, which are typically assessed on a 24-hour basis. We have zero ongoing violations, and we work diligently to correct any inconsistencies quickly and effectively."

However, the full number of Stronghold’s violations are contested. Stronghold was connected to Panther Creek before the 2021 acquisition, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Feinberg responded to Beard.

“Stronghold operates this power plant differently than any other power plant in Pennsylvania,” said Feinberg. “Stronghold is running this power plant for their Bitcoin and crypto mining operations. For their purely private incentive. And that’s what is different about them versus any other power plant in Pennsylvania.”

He said residents need to continue contacting the DEP and Freiwald Law about Stronghold. He emphasized that first-hand experiences of Panther Creek’s pollution is the legal argument’s backbone.

Residents discussed their next steps at a meeting May 8 at the Nesquehoning Recreational Center. They plan to petition DEP to not renew Panther Creek’s operating permit. DEP reviews operating permits every five years, according to its website. Residents have until May 28 to submit comments to Norm Frederick at nfrederick@pa.gov and Mark Mott at mmott@pa.gov.

Save Carbon County said it plans to present a resolution to the Nesquehoning Borough Council against air pollution on May 22 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be at the Nesquehoning Borough Building.

Isabela Weiss is a storyteller turned reporter from Athens, GA. She is WVIA News's Rural Government Reporter and a Report for America corps member. Weiss lives in Wilkes-Barre with her fabulous cats, Boo and Lorelai.

You can email Isabella at isabelaweiss@wvia.org
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