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Washington State County Shuts Down 'Unauthorized' Crypto Miners

A utility in Washington State – a popular location for bitcoin miners – has cut off electricity to three “unauthorized” sites that officials said posed a risk to public safety.

The Chelan County Public Utility District (PUD) said Monday the three mines – located separately in Wenatchee, Malaga and Chelan – were “using enough power to create fire risks for neighbors and damage grid equipment not sized for the load.” For that reason, utility officials disconnected the power at those sites.

“Not only are we concerned, we’re incensed that individuals are putting people at risk,” PUD Commissioner Steve McKenna said in a statement issued April 2. “We’re not going to tolerate it. This is a strong message, and I want to make that very clear.”

The PUD said that in the future, rogue operators could face potential legal repercussions for power theft and public safety endangerment. However, PUD commissioner Garry Arseneault clarified that any heightened restrictions would focus on unknown mining operations, and not miners that are approved and followed the rules.

Arseneault was quoted as 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. … 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.”

Chelan County – a region known for its abundant hydropower – is an attractive site for industrial-scale miners, who tap the region’s comparatively cheap power to maximize profits.

Yet the PUD imposed a moratorium on new bitcoin mines last month, citing safety concerns, as previously reported.

Other local governments in the area are reportedly making similar moves.

Wenatchee, for example, recently passed new cryptocurrency mining ordinances. According to Koho 101, the city joined Chelan City, Leavenworth and East Wenatchee in restricting bitcoin mining operations.

Bitcoin mining image via Shutterstock

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Chinese Power Provider Denies Bitcoin Mining Ban Rumors

A state-owned electric utility in China is rebuffing rumors that bitcoin mining has been deemed illegal by the government.

Rumors spread in the past day – based on a circulated document – indicating that the country’s State Grid was moving to ban bitcoin mining at a county level in Sichuan province, an ostensibly notable development given the area’s abundant water supply for electricity generation and the fact that profit-chasing bitcoin miners are headquartered in the region.

A translated version of the document states that “bitcoin mining is an illegal activity,” further adding that “each State Grid connected generator that is involved in powering bitcoin mining is also regarded as an illegal practice, which shall be prohibited. The document includes the official stamp of the State Grid’s Dan Ba county branch, located in Sichuan.

Though quickly circulated and reported by Chinese local media – raising questions about whether such a decision may signal an administration move against bitcoin mining (one that would follow crackdowns on initial coin offerings (ICOs) and the exchange-based trading of cryptocurrencies against the Chinese yuan) – subsequent statements indicate that the fears may be overblown.

According to Chinese business publication Caixin, local executives from the county branch confirmed the authenticity of the report but clarified it’s only an internal memo and some of the phrases were drafted incorrectly. It’s also important to note that the document comes from a county branch instead of a statewide level, thus diminishing the weight it might carry.

“We are a state-owned enterprise, not an administrative branch that has the power to determine whether bitcoin mining is legitimate or not,” the county branch told the publication.

The firm went on to clarify that some of the small generators in the region may have violated agreements that prioritize electrical supplies for local residents before business such as bitcoin mines.

At the same time, such a decision may also signal a conflict between the State Grid’s county branch and the individual generators over the profits that they make through bitcoin mining.

“It’s a fight for the interests of hydropower stations,” Jiang Zhuoer, founder of China’s mining pool BTC.TOP, told CoinDesk.

Hydropower image via Shutterstock

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