TAZEWELL, Tenn. (WATE) — Tensions were high Tuesday at the Claiborne County Regional Planning Commission’s meeting. Discussion about a cryptocurrency mining location was on the agenda and unhappy neighbors shared their thoughts about it.
“This is in our backyard,” one public speaker said. “I don’t want to be on my computer working and all of a sudden something happens. I’m concerned about that as well as everything environmental or animals.”
Scott Wade, head of operations for Exponential Digital which is hoping to set up the Tazewell Bitcoin mining and hosting facility, also took the mic during the meeting. He spent close to an hour answering questions to try to ease concerns.
“I wanted to come here today to represent our company and to ensure we’re not trying to avoid any laws or regulations of the county,” Wade said. “We want to comply. We want to do what we need to do.”
Community members have expressed that they felt the mining operation popped up out of the blue. Planning commission Chairman Rodney Fugate said they as a body couldn’t stop it, because the county has no zoning laws.
When we asked him if he thought the cryptocurrency operators did anything wrong, he said no. We also asked if there is anything on the books right now that they should be doing moving forward to keep their operation ongoing.
“On the books right now, no,” Fugate said. “He might could address the noise pollution, he might could address some of the safety concerns that the residents asked about such as fire prevention or how to extinguish the fire if the building catches on fire. The sewer issue. But other than that, no.”
A group of residents said they now want zoning addressed. Claiborne County’s mayor came with a new proposal.
“The purpose of that is just to list all properties as residential, commercial and industrial, which is already done in the tax assessor’s office. If you are going to have any use within those areas, you’ve got to bring it to the planning commission, just so that they knew all the due diligence is done and all the requirements as far as infrastructure, roads, sewer, emergency services can get into the property for whatever that would be,” Mayor Joe Brooks said.
The community’s power provider, Powell Valley Electric Cooperative, shared the following statement:
Concerns that electric rates will increase due to a cryptocurrency mining operation locating in our area are unfounded. It is simply not true that electric rates will increase. Electric utilities generate revenue from the sale of electricity, therefore, the more electricity sold will bring in more revenue to a utility. Rather than increase rates, the revenue generated from the cryptocurrency mining operation will have the opposite effect and will be used to postpone future rate increases for all rate payers.
Powell Valley Electric Cooperative
Crypto can be quite complicated, but you might compare it to when people bought property with gold. Cryptocurrency replaces the gold with a virtual token or coin “mined” with computers solving complex math problems, limiting their availability.
This process takes computing power, which requires electricity coming and going — first to power the units that are processing the information, and second to keep those units cool as they work.
“Even on a home scale the fans required to keep these systems cool can be so loud two people can’t hear each other talk in the same room,” Milligan University economics professor David Campbell said.