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Update: Missoula County Extends Regulations Requiring Renewable Energy for Cryptocurrency Mining

On March 26, 2020, the County Commissioners voted unanimously to extend the interim zoning regulations for cryptocurrency mining in Missoula County for an additional year, until April 3, 2021. These rules are critical to our efforts to address the climate crisis and protect public health and safety in our county. Below are some key points to understand:

1) They’re not a moratorium. The regulations don’t affect cryptocurrency mines that existed prior to April 4, 2019, unless they scale up their mining operations into unused portions of existing buildings or into new buildings. Just as the regulations don’t prevent existing operations from expanding, neither do they prevent new operations from starting up. What they do is establish conditions which new or expanded cryptocurrency mines must meet to ensure that they don’t generate excessive noise, that their electronic waste is handled appropriately, and that they develop or purchase new renewable energy.

2) Cryptocurrency mines are tremendous energy hogs. One large cryptocurrency mine in Missoula County already uses about as much electricity as one-third of the households in the county, and may be expanded. This tremendous energy use runs counter to our obligation to address climate change.

3) Climate change is an emergency. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that a significant reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions is necessary in the next decade to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. In Missoula County, that means more frequent and intense wildfires and flooding, with far-reaching impacts on public health and safety, our ecosystems and our local economy. Given the failure of state and federal leaders to address this crisis, we have an obligation to act locally. Last year the County and City of Missoula adopted a goal of 100 percent clean electricity for the Missoula urban area by 2030. The cryptocurrency mining regulations ensure that new or expanded cryptocurrency mines don’t jeopardize our ability to address climate change locally.

4) New renewable energy is critical. The regulations require new or expanded cryptocurrency mines to use “new” renewable energy sources. This is critical. When a new large energy user makes use of an existing renewable energy resource, whoever was previously using that power must shift to another energy resource, likely coal or natural gas. The only way to avoid an increase in greenhouse gas emissions is for the new user to develop or buy into a new renewable energy resource instead.

5) Interim zoning is temporary. The regulation originally took effect on April 4, 2019, and this extension keeps them in force until April 3, 2021. This gives the county time to develop a long-term solution which may include permanent zoning.

None of us could have anticipated the emergence of cryptocurrency mining in our county. With these regulations, we’ve found a way to accommodate the growth of cryptocurrency mining without sacrificing community values or undermining our efforts to address climate change. Questions or comments can be directed to Diana Maneta at (406) 258-3424 or dmaneta@missoulacounty.us or Jennie Dixon at (406) 258-4946 or jdixon@missoulacounty.us.

Click here for answers to FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS regarding Missoula County's cryptocurrency mining regulations


Background: 

On April 4, 2019, the County Commissioners adopted interim zoning regulations for cryptocurrency mining operations. The regulations take effect immediately for a period of one year and establish conditions that new or expanded cryptocurrency mining operations in the county must meet. The conditions are:

  1. Locate only in light or heavy industrial zoned districts;
  2. Be reviewed as a conditional or special use (which includes a review of noise levels);
  3. Dispose of electronic waste with an e-waste recycling firm licensed by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality; and
  4. Develop or purchase new renewable energy to meet or offset 100% of the electricity consumed at the facility.

 In accordance with §76-2-206 MCA, CAPS conducted a study to verify that an emergency exists relative to the impacts of cryptocurrency mining. This study is ongoing and updates will be posted periodically.

2019 Cryptocurrency Mining Study

Cryptocurrency Mining Resolution Adopted 4/4/19

Cryptocurrency Mining Zoning Overlay District Adopted 4/4/19

Past Public Meetings:

June 14, 2018 - First public hearing on cryptocurrency mining

September 27, 2018 - Continuation of June 14 hearing

March 14, 2019 - Discussion of options to regulate cryptocurrency mining operations

April 4, 2019 - Interim zoning regulations adopted

Public comments received on this topic from May 2018 through September 28, 2018 are posted here.

Public comments received on this topic in March and April 2019 are posted here.