Chelan Public Utility District (PUD) commissioners ordered staff to enforce the moratorium on cryptocurrency mining following the discovery of unauthorized mining activities, Chelan PUD reported Monday, April 2.
The enforcement measures, which include fines and penalties, disconnecting service, “reporting unauthorized loads to law enforcement as power theft”, and “firing officials to protect public safety”, follow the ratification of a March 19 moratorium on applications for cryptocurrency mining. The fees proposed by the staff could amount to “$5,000 for unauthorized operations in residential areas and $7,000 to $10,000 in commercial space.”
The commissioners became concerned with the state and safety of electricity systems after discovering several cases of unauthorized digital currency mining, including those in an apartment, a home, and mini-storage units. Each mining point was consuming enough electricity to cause concern for fire safety, as the facilities were not designed for such a load.
According to Customer Utilities managing director John Stoll, monthly power consumption of the apartment skyrocketed from 500 kilowatt hours (kwH) to 11,000-plus kwH, which is far above the norm. Commissioner Garry Arseneault characterized the offenders as “scoundrels”, saying:
What we’re discussing is a person who is purposely trying to slip around the end and use power in a way that a facility was not designed for and doing so in a manner where there’s been no request for service to meet that kind of demand. I see yet, once again, a reason to support the installation of automated meters to be able to confront these scoundrels before they do burn an apartment building down and perhaps kill a family or children in the process.”
The move by the PUD commissioners aims to address safety hazards from rogue operations such as overloaded grid equipment, fire risks for neighbors, in addition to the district’s costs for investigation and monitoring of illegal cryptocurrency operations.
Miners have flocked to some small American cities due to cheaper electrical costs, which is essential for gaining profit in the field. As a consequence, many small towns are struggling to keep up with demand. Last month, the city council of Plattsburgh, NY approved an 18 month moratorium on Bitcoin mining activities in the town, aiming to make miners pay for overages of the city’s power budget.
In January, CNBC reported on power grid overloads caused by mining operations in Douglas County, WA. However, the problem was met with a plan to add 100 megawatts in data centers to keep up with demand.