Chelen County in Washington has taken steps to halt illegal cryptocurrency mining.
Where once Wenatchee, a favorite destination for Bitcoin exploration, had put Chelan County into the limelight, the county is now attracting negative attention as a haven for prohibited cryptocurrency mining. The County’s Public Utility District (PUD) is taking measures to curb the illegal exploration, including enforcement of hefty fines and cutting energy supply to those involved.
It appears that the unauthorized mining of cryptocurrency is not just a problem in the small town of Wenatchee but also in other areas of the county such as Malaga and the county town of Chelen. According to the PUD the quantity of power being used by the illegal miners in these areas has potentially dangerous consequences for the grid and could be a fire hazard.
In one particular instance, an authorized miner used an abandoned apartment in Wenatchee and used up to 20 times the usual reading in only one month, prompting further investigation by local police. Also, an unauthorized miner in Malaga was apparently in discussions with PUD regarding legalizing his activities but continued his mining until his electricity was cut off.
Chelan County PUD Commissioner Steve McKenna stated that he was concerned due to the risk posed to the community by illegal mining and the use of power as a result but those using power with “legitimate requests” were not under discussion:
“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… doing so in a manner where there’s been no request for that type of service… a reason to support the insulation of automated meters to be able to confront these scoundrels before they do burn an apartment down and perhaps kill a family or children in the process.”.
Chelan County has stopped work on crypto mining software until solutions can be found as to how to manage the unauthorized miners. Penalties from between USD 5,000 and USD 10,000 or a jail sentence may be introduced for power theft.
The enormous use of energy and computational power required to mine Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies continues to be a contentious issue. A recent report from Iceland stated that facilities mining Bitcoin could eventually use more electricity than that consumed annually by the country’s homes and potentially create energy shortages.