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Washington Power Utility Faces ‘Agitated’ Crypto Miners, Ramps Up Security

Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:07 PM
Samburaj Das
Last Updated March 4, 2021 5:07 PM

Washington’s Chelan County public utility district (PUD) is beefing up its security citing employee safety concerns due to what it describes as “belligerent behavior” from cryptocurrency miners.

As reported previously, Chelan County public utility placed a moratorium on bitcoin mining after a major influx of new crypto miners seeking to take advantage of the region’s cheap and abundant hydro-electric power. Chelan county officials claimed they were being “inundated” with applications, even after enforcing higher power tariffs for crypto miners in mid-2016.

However, that moratorium has led to instances irate crypto miners becoming “agitated and argumentative” with PUD employees, according to local publication Wenatchee World.

A PUD spokeswoman confirmed that no incidents have led to the point of requesting the help of law enforcement authorities. However, she added:

The volume of requests and the sense of urgency by applicants has changed the dynamics of the interaction by staff with the cryptocurrency customers.

“PUD employees in the field and those in the office who are handling issues related to high-density load service have encountered an increasing number of upset customers and potential customers,” the spokeswoman said. “In some cases people can get agitated and argumentative.”

Specifically, the local report suggests the behavior is coming from two cryptocurrency-related groups seen as unauthorized miners who have had their power disconnected and have had their applications declined due to the ongoing emergency moratorium placed in March.

Chelan PUD commissioners confirmed measures taken by security director Rich Hyatt at PUD facilities ‘due to belligerent behavior by impatient cryptocurrency miners, on the utility provider’s website .

“Some of the things we’re doing internally,” Hyatt elaborated , include “business security measures”, such as:

  • Ballistic (bullet-proof) panels in the lobby and headquarters.
  • Increased CCTV camera coverage.
  • A smaller, more -secure front lobby for PUD staff at the service building, separating them from customers.
  • Training security officers to look for ‘negative body language’ and ‘agitated’ customers.
  • Front-line staff now get panic buttons.

Hyatt added:

“It’s an opportunity to protect our assets [against power theft]…protect our field personnel, extend some workplace violence prevention program for those personnel who are on the frontlines.

In April, another Washington PUD operator in Mason County, some 200 miles west to Chelan, also placed a moratorium on new applications from crypto miners after determining that it needed time to evaluate the effect of energy-intensive mining operations on local resources in the region.

Ballistic panels image from Shutterstock.