California co. upends Cherokee County, NC


Following uproar in the state’s far west over noise and other disruptions brought by cryptocurrency mining, Buncombe County has extended by a year its temporary ban on such operations.

County officials say they are struggling with how to write rules protecting residents from problems that those who have experienced them say include constant noise as well as Styrofoam and electronic waste.

“The U.S. Congress is still wrestling over how exactly to regulate the industry itself. There’s a patchwork quilt of regulations across all 50 U.S. states. We, however, are looking at it from a land use perspective,” county Planning and Development Director Nathan Pennington said at a May 7 Board of Commissioners meeting.

Commissioners voted unanimously to extend the ban − which ended May 1 − to April 30, 2025.

Bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency mining require no drills; instead, they use a warehouse full of specialized computers and other equipment to complete billions of computations every second in a bid to win a sort of lottery against other miners. The winner verifies a block of transactions that are added to the blockchain, the virtual ledgers underpinning cryptocurrencies. For their work, miners receive a bundle of virtual coins that can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The process can use immense amounts of electricity and water to run the equipment and keep it cool. China banned the mines in 2021. Cherokee, the state’s farthest western county with hundreds of thousands of acres of unsettled forest and few land regulations, saw residents outraged in 2019 when cryptocurrency mines start setting up shop and filled the day and night with the buzzing and whirring of industrial fans. Other problems have included the local landfill struggling with large amounts of electronic and Styrofoam packing material waste.

Along with Buncombe, Madison County − a place also known for dislike of land use regulations − has used a moratorium to buy itself time to write protections against the mines.

Demand for the operations fluctuates extremely because of the “wildly speculative” nature of cryptocurrency, Pennington, Buncombe’s planning and development director told commissioners May 7.

Extending the moratorium will give the county time to figure out how to write rules restricting the mines while not infringing on data centers, he said.

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“Data centers are integral to life and commerce across the U.S.,” Pennington said. “Buncombe County has two data centers that run our operations. So does the National Climatic Data Center,” Pennington said.

Commissioner Terri Wells, who is running Nov. 5 for the county’s new west, north and northeast District 2 against unaffiliated Bruce O’Connell, said caution was warranted.

“I think it’s wise that we want to research anything that we’re about to do and make sure that we think carefully,” Wells said.

More:Ethics committee fines Cawthorn for promoting crypto in which he had financial interest

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Joel Burgess has lived in WNC for more than 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He’s written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Got a tip? Contact Burgess at, 828-713-1095 or on Twitter @AVLreporter. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.


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