N.Y. Today: Crypto-mining in New York

What you need to know for Wednesday

Good morning. It's Wednesday. We'll look at a bill on crypto-mining (and what crypto-mining is). We'll also see how Gov. Kathy Hochul and her two Democratic challengers did in their first major debate.

Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

Crypto interests are lobbying Gov. Kathy Hochul to veto a groundbreaking bill that would temporarily halt new crypto-mining projects at fossil-fuel burning plants.

Let's take a moment here and do some unpacking. Crypto-mining doesn't involve picks and shovels. It refers to a verification process that is essential to the Bitcoin economy. Computers can plug into the Bitcoin network and confirm the legitimacy of transactions. This now involves quintillions of numeric guesses a second. A quintillion is a million trillion.

In Bitcoin's early years, crypto enthusiasts could mine from home. But as Bitcoin's popularity surged, mining required more computing muscle, outstripping what most home computers could handle. That made mining increasingly energy intensive. Crypto companies began trying to repurpose old, coal-burning power plants and generate "behind the meter" electricity.

That's where the bill that was passed last week came in. It would impose a two-year ban on new crypto-mining permits at fossil-fuel burning plants.

It's not clear whether Hochul will sign the bill, but the deep-pocketed crypto industry is expected to spend heavily to persuade her not to. Her campaign has already received $40,000 from the chief executive of a company with a crypto-mining operation at a former aluminum plant in Massena, N.Y., northeast of Niagara Falls.

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Far more has gone to Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, who is facing two primary challengers this month. FTX, a major cryptocurrency exchange, is spending roughly $1 million through a super PAC on television and digital ads supporting Delgado's campaign, according to state filings. (Michael Levine, a spokesman for the PAC, said it was focused on candidates it believed would back pandemic-readiness measures, although the ads refer to Deglado's work on other issues, including climate change, infrastructure and abortion.)

The Assembly passed the bill in April, but the measure stalled in the Senate until it was unexpectedly revived and passed just before the Senate adjourned for the year early Friday morning. The vote followed a crackdown on crypto mining in China that sent some mining operations to the United States.

Crypto companies turned to generating their own electricity at former power plants across upstate New York that had been shut down because they were polluters. Nineteen mining operations are either operational now or could be by the end of the year, according to Assemblywoman Anna Kelles, a Democrat who sponsored the bill in the lower chamber.

The concern is that restarting old plants would reverse the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that closing them had helped bring about — which, in turn, would slow the state's progress on climate goals it may already be behind on.

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The bill would not affect crypto mining projects that draw their electricity from the grid. But some supporters say those, too, should be banned because they hog electricity.

Some crypto executives say that a moratorium in New York would simply send mining operations elsewhere. But Senator Kevin Parker, a Democrat from Brooklyn who sponsored the bill, said that it was not meant to discourage the industry.

"If folks want to do cryptocurrency mining in the state of New York, which I'm very open to," he said, "then we need to do it in a sustainable way."

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Hochul on the defensive in debate

Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

Thomas Suozzi and Jumaane Williams, Democrats whose approaches to issues like fighting crime could hardly be more different, had a single common goal on Tuesday night. My colleague Nicholas Fandos described that goal as pushing Gov. Kathy Hochul off her apparent glide path to a full four-year term during the first major face-off of the three Democratic candidates in the June 28 primary.

Hochul was on the defensive for much of the hourlong debate. Suozzi accused Hochul of being tied to special interests, from the hospitality company that her husband works for to the National Rifle Association, which endorsed her when she ran for Congress in 2012.

"Only one of us up here has ever been endorsed by the N.R.A.," Suozzi said. Hochul countered that "that was a decade ago," adding, "A lot of people have evolved since I took that position. You know what we need? More people to evolve."

Both Williams and Suozzi took issue with a deal to spend $600 million in state funds on a $1.4 billion stadium for Hochul's hometown football team, the Buffalo Bills. Suozzi called it "the biggest taxpayer giveaway in the history of the N.F.L."

"We asked for $1 billion to be put in for gun violence," Williams said. "What we got was $1 billion for building the stadium that hired her husband."

Hochul said the returns on the stadium would "far exceed the investment" and that the deal would create 10,000 jobs. "But also I understand people questioning this, I really do," she said. "Every part of the state has regional priorities. The Buffalo Bills is to the identity of western New York the way Broadway is to New York City. It's part of who they are."

She acknowledged that the indictment of Brian Benjamin, whom she chose to be lieutenant governor, had been "a setback" after she had promised to restore "faith in government." Benjamin resigned in April after he was charged with bribery and fraud in his previous job as a state senator.

Hochul defended the relatively modest changes in rollbacks in state bail laws. Suozzi assailed her for not pressing lawmakers to give judges discretion to assess a defendant's "dangerousness" when deciding on bail.

"Dangerousness is subjective," Hochul said. "I think what we gave the judges is better than this vague term that can be subjective and many times used against an individual because of the color of their skin."

METROPOLITAN DIARY

Saturday matinee

Dear Diary:

I was sitting in my regular Saturday afternoon seat at the Midwood Theater in Brooklyn, halfway down on the right. As usual, I had my corned beef on rye and a pickle. This day was special. The main feature was "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man."

The only thing I remember is the monster being freed from a block of ice. When he came to life — that was it! It was too much for a 10-year-old to take. I freaked out.

That night, I had a nightmare about Frankenstein melting above my bed. And no one was home at the time. My mother was playing gin at Mrs. Langbaum's, and my father was driving the cab.

My mother lost her keys and asked the Langbaums' son, Ira, to climb up our fire escape and get the spare. Up three stories he went to an unfamiliar apartment.

He opened the window, tripped and crashed through the blinds onto my bed.

Frankenstein had come for me!

I sat bolt upright, moving my lips with nothing coming out.

My mother got her keys, and I got into the habit of getting up in the middle of the night, pushing the blinds aside and checking to see whether Frankenstein was on the fire escape.

More than 75 years later, I still remember you, Ira Langbaum.

— Stewart Steckel

Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at nytoday@nytimes.com.

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