Washington Utility Will Uphold Its Cryptocurrency Mining Moratorium

Utility officials in Chelan County have decided to uphold the temporary ban on digital currency mining operations until August, citing a need to find the best way to handle the high-density electrical demand.

by Nevonne Mcdaniels, The Wenatchee World / May 15, 2018

(TNS) — WENATCHEE, Wash. — New cryptocurrency operations in Chelan County are on hold for at least another three months.

Chelan County PUD’s five-member board on Monday voted unanimously to maintain until Aug. 6 the emergency moratorium on new high-density load hookups put in place March 19.

The idea is to give staff time to figure out how best to handle the “gold rush” for high-density electrical service that followed the spike in digital currency values last fall.

The decision Monday followed more than two hours of public testimony on both sides of the issue. Cryptocurrency enthusiasts spoke to the potential benefits and business opportunities.

Denton Meier, one of the new owners of the old Jones & Jones Funeral Home on Chelan Avenue in Wenatchee, said his company is hoping to have a cryptocurrency operation in the basement. The heat generated from the computer equipment would be used to heat the building and the parking lot in the winter.

Skeptics, though, questioned everything from the ethics of virtual currency to the environmental and system impacts of the blockchain technology that uses specialized computer equipment and requires a large, steady stream of electricity.

In the end, logistics held sway.

“It’s clear we don’t have a path forward at this point. We need more time …to consider moving forward with some type of high density, cryptocurrency load,” PUD Commissioner Garry Arseneault said. “Let’s give staff a reasonable length of time to get their arms around a very complicated, very technical issue that we previously had no knowledge of and no experience of. We are blazing a path here. There are commissions throughout the state and companies across the United States who are watching. We want to get this right. I am in favor of extending the moratorium, not so we can find a way to say ‘no’ but so we can find a path forward.”

PUD Commissioner Steve McKenna agreed the issue is not about the merits of Bitcoin.

“I’m not in the business as a commissioner to determine who brings their business here and who doesn’t,” he said. “It’s my job to uphold the mission of this organization, to provide sustainable, reliable utility service that enhances the quality of life of this county. This tidal wave has hit us so fast and so hard that I don’t see how we can provide sustainable, reliable utility services and move as rapidly as people want. The flood gate opened and it hit us on the side of the face. It’s not to say that it’s good or bad, but I feel we’re required to provide the time to make sure we do this well.”

General Manager Steve Wright said the staff has learned “a ton” in the past three months.

“We’re trying to figure out if we can turn this into lemonade. Is there something here that can enhance the quality of life for people in Chelan County and get best value for the most people for the longest period of time. It’s possible,” he said.

©2018 The Wenatchee World (Wenatchee, Wash.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.