"I can’t even believe that people would be allowed to burn tires."

Tire Fire

A Pennsylvania crypto company wants to burn tires to fuel Bitcoin mining — and community members from the area surrounding the proposed blazes are furious.

In interviews with The Guardian, residents and environmentalists of Nesquehoning, the quaint Poconos township where Stronghold Digital Mining has asked the Environmental Protection Agency for permission to burn tires to generate energy for its proof-of-concept Bitcoin mining facility, spoke out about the plan.

"I was shocked," Carol Etheridge, who lives near Nesquehoning, told the British newspaper. "It’s terrible. I can’t even believe that people would be allowed to burn tires."

Burning tires as a means to repurpose waste into energy is legal and was once, as The Guardian notes, considered an EPA-approved alternative method to conventional fossil fuels — in a now-archived page that hasn't been updated since 2016, at least. Stronghold isn't even the first company to attempt the gambit, either: back in 2017, the similarly-generic-named Standard American Mining company partnered with a tire waste reusal outfit to concoct a similar scheme in North Carolina.

That's not to say the practice is necessarily safe. As the report explains, combusting tires can release, among other byproducts, a mega-toxic type of chemical known as "furans," which have been linked to cancer and have difficulty breaking down in the environment.

Burn, Baby, Burn

Stronghold's specialty, per its website, is repurposing — first with waste coal at its two plants in PA, and now, the company hopes, with used tires.

But as local environmentalists have argued, both its waste coal programs and its proposed tire combustion plan carry significant environmental impacts.

"There is no analysis for how [burning tires] will add to the existing burden of legacy pollution in the area," Rob Altenburg of the environmentalist group PennFuture told The Guardian.

Charles McPhedran, a lawyer with the environmental group Earthjustice, has told everyone from The Guardian and the local NPR affiliate to Cointelegraph and the Bitcoinist blog that Stronghold is bad news. As he told the British newspaper, "this sort of disposal of tires is a last resort."

Although the mining company insists on its website that it is "actively improving the environment," McPhedran pointed out to Cointelegraph that both sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions rose after Stronghold took over Panther Creek Energy Facility, the former coal mine in Nesquehoning where it wants to burn tires to fuel up to 15 percent of its operation. Overall, he told local NPR affiliate State Impact, the effect is similar to burning coal for energy.

The attorney and the group he represents are now calling on the state government to deny Stronghold's application to burn tires.

"Panther Creek already poses a threat to Pennsylvania’s air quality," McPhedran told the local Times News paper.  "Considering tire-derived fuel introduces another issue."

More on energy: Teen Activist Lectures Greenpeace to Stop Railing Against Nuclear Power

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