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‘Scoundrels’: Washington County Fires Back at Unauthorized Bitcoin Miners

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:06 PM
Gerelyn Terzo
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:06 PM

If you’re in Washington’s Chelan County, you might want to think twice about attempting to mine bitcoin off the radar.

At their latest meeting, the county’s public utility district (PUD) moved to enforce a moratorium that was placed on new mining applications last month and take whatever steps necessary — including fees and criminal charges — against what officials characterized as “scoundrels” running “unauthorized cryptocurrency operations,” according to a notice . Chief among their concerns is protection both for the community and the power equipment, but they’re also worried about supply.

The moratorium was originally placed on new applications to give the agency time to review rates amid the massive power consumption associated with bitcoin mining facilities. Now the county is threatening fees, penalties, cutting off power and reporting unauthorized activity to the police for people who break the rules. They’re also considering installing automated power consumption meters so that they can uncover secret operations faster.

Over the Edge

Chelan’s PUD was put over the edge upon discovering several unauthorized bitcoin mining groups across the county, including an apartment complex (where power consumption jumped twentyfold), someone’s house as well as a mini-storage unit facility. The skyrocketing power consumption gave the miners away, from 500-kilowatt-hours to more than 11,000 kwH, not to mention the open windows and doors to usher in the cooler temperatures to keep the equipment from overheating.

According to PUD, these operations put the community at risk of fire and place an overwhelming burden on the power supply.

“Not only are we concerned, we’re incensed that individuals are putting people at risk. We’re not going to tolerate it. This is a strong message, and I want to make that very clear,” said Commissioner Steve McKenna.

To be clear, the county doesn’t have a problem with bitcoin miners who have gone through the proper channels for approval.

“I want to take one step back and say that users of power that have legitimate requests, and have been properly sized for the use of that power, that’s not the kind of entity we’re discussing today,” said Commissioner Garry Arseneault.

Chelan County’s PUD is considering the following fee structure for unauthorized bitcoin miners-

  • $5,000 for residential
  • Between $7,000 and $10,000 in business locations

In the midst of the chaos, one bitcoin minger hopeful asked PUD officials to consider moving through the applications for approval once again.

Cheap Power

Washington isn’t the only state with bitcoin mining in focus. CCN.com recently reported that New York’s public utility regulator gave the green light to municipalities to impose higher electricity rates for cryptocurrency mining facilities with “high-density loads.”

Washington’s Chelan County, where power is cheap and abundant, similarly began as a review of the rates. But things escalated when they uncovered that rather than waiting for the application moratorium to be lifted, people were putting more of a strain on the power grid and mining cryptocurrencies anyway.

Featured image from Shutterstock.