Officials from Upstate New York Town Seek to Ban Bitcoin Mining

Plattsburgh, NY city officials want to reserve their cheap electricity for non-crypto economic development. Plattsburgh, NY is located in Clinton County, and its current claim to claim to fame is a new Showtime series featuring Ben Stiller about an escape from a local prison being filmed downtown. But bitcoin mining is also making headlines, amid fears that the town’s power supply could be depleted.

   Plattsburgh boasts some of the cheapest energy prices in the United States because of hydroelectric power stemming from the St. Lawrence River. When the dams were formed on the river nearly 70 years ago, the town locked in low electricity rates for a fixed supply. Bitcoin miners are taking advantage of it, but the city’s mayor is crying foul.

“With great use of additional power, we are put over our threshold each winter and we are put over our threshold of ratepayers,” said Mayor Colin Read.

   This is threatening the business of mining operations such as David Bowen’s Plattsburgh BTC, a 20-computer business housed in an old paper warehouse. Bowen recognized the opportunity in the town back in 2014 and has been mining bitcoin ever since. Good news traveled fast, and since that time a handful of other bitcoin miners have become his neighbors.

   But now their fate hangs in the balance. According to reports, bitcoin mining consumers about 10% of Plattsburgh power generation. Mayor Read said that this has led to the city having to purchase power in the open market at rates much higher than the rate base.

Power Struggle

   While other businesses in the town consumer similar amounts of energy, the mayor would prefer to see the power supply go to a business that adds hundreds of jobs to the area. He quipped to The New York Times about bitcoin miners: “They hire a security guard,” he said. “And a guy who comes when something breaks.”

   Meanwhile, about 80 miles down the road from Plattsburgh in Massena, NY, where there are also low-cost power agreements in place for industrial use, Coinmint wants to develop a 16,000-computer server bitcoin mining facility. The company is still in negotiations but the prospects look good amid a downturn in aluminum smelting that took a hit on the local economy. Coinmint is looking to occupy the abandoned aluminum plant, where it plans to introduce some 150 jobs to the area. The company has reportedly requested access to 15 MW of cheap power.

   Plattsburgh city officials plan to take up the topic of bitcoin mining at an upcoming hearing scheduled for mid-March.

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