Just a day after promising to make the Missoula urban area run only on renewable energy by 2030, commissioners in the Montana state county yesterday declared a public emergency to justify interim regulations on new or expanded cryptocurrency mining operations. These are to stay in place until a solution is found.

Although the authorities have insisted that it is not specifically targeting a specific company, since emergency zoning measures would target all businesses, mining firm HyperBlock is the only operation in the county. It has now protested the new regulations, saying it would have no choice but to shut down its business to comply.

The attorney representing the firm, James Bowditch, told commissioners the firm did not want to be forced into litigation:

“You’re really targeting one business and that’s the only business that exists that will be impacted by these regulations. Nobody disagrees, including myself and my client, that climate change is important. But this is not the way to do it. Doing so this way will only result in one thing, and that’s what I’m fearful of, and that’s a lawsuit.”

HyperBlock brought attention last year when commissioners said that its operations consumed energy equal to a third all households in the county. Commissioner Dave Strohmaier declared:

“As near as I can tell, cryptocurrency mining is using exponentially more energy than any other energy user. As far as an industry goes, it’s a grotesque amount of energy and we’ve got to take steps to address it.”

The new regulations mean that HyperBlock cannot expand, and prevents other miners from starting up in Missoula County, unless it develops or buys renewable energy to fully offset what it consumes. HyperBlock does in fact run on 100% hydropower but does not meet the new criteria because the green energy must be newly acquired, and not taken from existing supply.

Diana Maneta, the county’s climate action advisor, explained:

“The mining operation must be able to establish that their actions will introduce new renewable energy onto the electrical grid, beyond what would have been developed otherwise.”

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