Missoula County Rejects Proposed Crypto Mining Moratorium

News, Regulation | October 1, 2018 By:

Missoula, a county in the US state of Montana, has rejected the proposal for a moratorium on cryptocurrency mining operations.

Missoula is popular with crypto miners because the county’s climate helps cool the hundreds of computers needed for large operations, and the cost of electricity is fairly low. It is home to two large crypto mining plants, which use many large, loud fans to keep their mining equipment from overheating.

A one-year ban on new or expanded bitcoin mining activity was proposed in June of this year after residents complained that the noise generated by crypto mining may undermine local property values and excessive energy consumption could cause hikes in electricity rates.

Missoula County’s board of commissioners held a public hearing last week and decided to postpone the decision for three months “to give staff more time to consider various options.”

“On September 27, 2018, the Board of County Commissioners continued the public hearing on cryptocurrency mining that began on June 14,” the county’s website said. “At the continuation of the hearing on September 27, following a staff report and public comments, the Commissioners voted not to adopt interim zoning, and instead directed staff to investigate the development of regulations targeting the impacts of concern such as noise, electronic waste, and energy.”

According to Jennie Dixon from the county’s Community and Planning Services department, 92 percent of about 80 written comments from 71 individuals supported the moratorium. Brian Fadie from the Montana Environmental Information Center claimed that in one community, electric bills increased by $100 per month “after cryptocurrency came in and sucked up the low-cost hydro power.”

During the meeting, Commissioner Jean Curtiss said that “the county doesn’t have the authority that the state or cities may have to regulate one industry using the interim zoning.”

Attorney Jaymie Bowditch, who represents one of the companies operating a crypto mining operation in the Missoula town of Bonner, said that in order to approve the one-year moratorium using interim zoning, the commission had to show an imminent threat to public health or safety. He added that by extending the public hearing for three months, it showed that no immediate danger was posed.

“We appreciate a lot of the concerns expressed at the two public hearings, but a lot of those concerns are at the macro level,” said Bowditch. “We appreciate the differences in opinion on whether there is a societal benefit. But when you’re talking about options like the interim zoning, you don’t have the legal ability or right to make that decision.”