Rural Communities Suffering from Crypto Mining Pollution


Critics of crypto-mining operations argue that the industry is failing to deliver its promises to provide jobs and economic development to rural areas in exchange for cheap power and tax breaks. Little data is available to show that these companies, which use massive amounts of electricity, are truly located in rural areas. However, critics say that the operations could be harming rural communities more than they are helping.

Earthjustice, a national organization focusing on environmental law, suggests that crypto-mining’s power usage may be increasing pollution. But because the industry is largely unregulated, measuring its impact on the regions where it operates is difficult. Crypto-mining uses large banks of computers to generate crypto currency, and the work requires a lot of electricity.

According to FracTracker Alliance, an organization that documents how crypto-mining facilities use energy, it is challenging to determine how many crypto-mining facilities are in operation. As of November 2022, the organization said, there were 165 sites across the country – 84 in operation, 41 proposed, seven under construction and two defeated. The status of the remaining 33 is unknown.

In Kentucky, several crypto-mining operations have sprung up in the last three years after legislation was passed granting them tax incentives. These facilities are located in nonmetropolitan counties. The mining operations require the servers to run 24 hours a day. According to the White House, in 2022, the U.S. hosted about 38% of all global Bitcoin mining activity, up from just 3.5 % in 2020. Earthjustice said between mid-2021 and 2022, crypto mining required 36 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity – as much as all of the electricity consumed by Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island combined. This resulted in nearly 30 million tons of excess CO2 emissions in 2022 alone.

Thom Cmar, an attorney with Earthjustice, said that cryptocurrency mining doesn’t fit neatly into other categories of industry, so it’s not facing the same regulations. He added that there is no agency that’s clearly charged with tracking and reporting information about these facilities to the public.

In Texas, rural counties started courting cryptocurrency miners in 2022, according to the Texas Tribune. Around 30 have located in Texas in the past 10 years, and dozens more have expressed interest. One of these operations, London-based Argo Blockchain, wanted to build its facilities in rural Dickens County because it offered plenty of open land and easy access to affordable power. The crypto-mining company opened a 125,000-square-foot facility in May of 2022 and hired around 20 locals. Tax revenue from Argo Blockchain allowed Dickens County, with a population of 1,700 residents, to cut property taxes, give county employees raises, and fund investments in infrastructure and law enforcement.

Environmentalists, however, are concerned that the environmental impact may outweigh the benefits. Josh Bills with the Mountain Association in Berea, Kentucky, worries that recent legislation in Kentucky exempted

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