As Missoula Country Decides to Control Bitcoin Mining, Miners Worry About Potential Loss

The cost of cryptocurrency mining can be high, but it also is highly profitable for the individuals and accompanies that engage in it. Unfortunately, the former is a major non-starter for the county of Missoula, which has just decided to declare a public emergency. As a result, interim regulations on any new or expanded crypto operations have been implemented, and they will remain in effect until a solution to all the energy use is found, according to reports from Missoula Current.

The new zoning measure is not partial to a particular business, but it is hard to ignore the fact that there’s only one crypto operation in the county right now, which is HyperBlock. As a result of these actions, it is possible that HyperBlock may be unable to survive the new regulations that presently place. An attorney for HyperBlock, James Bowditch, implied how clear it is that the commissioners are “really targeting one business.”

Bowditch commented that, while “nobody disagrees” that it is necessary to prioritize climate change, but that that the actions are taken recently in Missoula County are not the way to go. They added that the only change that this will make is that a potential lawsuit will happen, and that is exactly “what [he’s] fearful of.”

Dan Stivers, the mining operations manager at HyperBlock, believes that this is an attack as well. He pointed out that the company had the option to use the same Colstrip energy as the county, considering that it was “cheaper.” However, they opted on a different power solution that was renewable, and the county is still going after them “as if we don’t care about the environment.” Stivers added that the accusations come with “no substance.”

HyperBlock is located in Bonner, and commissioners started keeping an eye on it last year when their energy consumption was high. The amount of electricity used by the mining operation is more than a third of every single household in Missoula County. The decision to impose interim zoning regulations was the first attempt to create a solution for achieving 100% clean energy before 2030.

Commissioner Dave Strohmaier explained that there is nothing that uses as much energy as cryptocurrency mining individually. He called the energy usage “grotesque,” adding that the county must “take steps to address it.” The new emergency zoning keeps HyperBlock from expanding their operations, and it will need any new mining centers from entering the area for now.

As a condition of new companies entering, these operations must be able to find a way to provide renewable energy for 100% of the mining operation. Right now, HyperBlock uses 100% renewable hydropower, but the county says that the source must bring in “new” renewable power, rather than using what the county already has.

At the hearing to make a decision, there were many business advocates that were there to support HyperBlock, hoping that the county would reconsider their decision. However, environmental advocates chimed in as well, saying that the work towards “concrete steps” in favor of a “greener, healthier Missoula.”

It is permissible, under state law, to establish an emergency zoning ordinance if a public emergency regarding the health, safety, morals, and general welfare are at risk.

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