JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) – Washington County is set to limit bitcoin and cryptocurrency “mining” to the Telford County Industrial Park.
County commissioners learned Monday of a proposed “text amendment” to the county’s zoning resolution that would create a “cryptocurrency mining district” in the Washington County Industrial Park (WCIP).
County Attorney Allyson Wilkinson said the change is separate from a proposed settlement agreement in the county’s lawsuit against BrightRidge and bitcoin mining company Red Dog Technologies. But she said it was also necessary if this settlement were to go ahead.
The settlement would see Red Dog build a new Bitcoin mine on seven acres in WCIP, and in turn shut down the limestone mine that is the subject of the lawsuit. She said the amendment to the text was among the issues discussed at the meeting of lawyers from all parties on October 21.
“It’s the most restrictive it can be under certain circumstances and legal considerations, and you’ll find it creates a district,” Wilkinson told commissioners Monday night. “It’s not then zoning as it would be across the county.”
The project throws no punches at what county staffers have found while researching crypto mining. Bitcoin mines are made up of powerful computers whose GPUs run complex algorithms in a race to “mine” new bitcoins and also verify cryptocurrency transactions.
Loud fans used to cool computers created the original controversy surrounding the limestone mine, which Wilkinson and county planning administrator Angie Charles later determined to be in violation of the zoning ordinance.
The project says staff have determined that the impacts of crypto mining can include substantial energy consumption, noise, and e-waste. “The (r)regulation is necessary to protect the public health, safety, and general welfare of the citizens of Washington County,” it read.
He calls mining “a relatively new industry that is not currently included in the (zoning) code.”
Draft text that would be added to the county’s zoning resolution says the creation of the district is intended to establish areas for businesses that “unless closely regulated, could adversely affect resources, development and the health, safety and welfare of (the) surrounding areas or Washington County as a whole.
The specific wording of the project specifies that any cryptocurrency mining facility “must be” located within the WCIP and be at least 5 acres in size. They also cannot be adjacent to a residential district.
The draft sets a noise limit at mine property boundaries not to exceed 60 decibels. It requires a user to verify that all e-waste they generate is handled by a licensed e-waste recycling company. And it prohibits any company from housing its computers or other equipment in freight containers, railroad cars, tractor-trailers “and other similar storage containers”.
Instead, the rules only allow “special noise-cancelling structures” designed to accommodate the operation, as well as a noise-cancelling fence, wall or enclosed screen.
“You’ll notice, and I think it’s important for you to note that it’s restricted and that’s what we discussed as recently as Friday,” Wilkinson told the commissioners.
The settlement would also require a utility provider (presumably BrightRidge) to calculate potential power consumption and verify that its equipment and related infrastructure can safely accommodate the proposed operation.
BrightRidge actually sought and obtained a rezoning of the Limestone property next to its Bailey Bridge Road substation in February 2020. The utility said Red Dog was its largest electricity customer, using enough electricity to power more than 10,000 homes, and cited this as a main reason. he first made a deal with the company.
Red Dog leases several acres of BrightRidge land adjacent to the Limestone substation – land BrightRidge purchased in January 2020.