The Common Council chambers were packed Thursday evening as Plattsburgh leaders considered a moratorium on new cryptocurrency operations in the northern New York city.
Plattsburgh is a lucrative site for cryptocurrency entrepreneurs because of its low electricity rates. But the two operations currently operating in Plattsburgh are drawing so much power that the city has exceeded its quota for purchasing bulk electricity. Mayor Colin Read said that has forced the Municipal Lighting Department to buy power on the spot market, which has increased ratepayers’ bills. “My goal is to protect the ratepayers. We have to watch that quota. Now if we can stay under the quota I’m all in favor of selling every single megawatt of power we can possibly sell to anybody who would like to pay a fair rate for it including Bitcoiners. And maybe there’s ways to do that. But we cannot as a community afford to go over the quota. This isn’t because we’re Luddites. It isn’t because we’re afraid of cryptocurrency. We have a fixed resource. And unlike some other communities that the Bitcoiners are going to where they can simply buy more power we don’t have that. We’ve got 104 megawatts. We’ve got a fixed amount. It’s a very unusual situation.”
A public hearing on a proposed moratorium on new cryptocurrency operations in the city filled the council’s chambers. Residents expressed concerns over rising electric costs while entrepreneurs cautioned that a moratorium could ruin the city’s opportunity to become a hub for block chain technology.
“My name is Laverne Hicks. The city gave permits to Bitcoin knowing that they were drawing a lot of electricity. They then allowed them to have permits again. The electrical ratepayers shouldn’t be burdened with this on our backs.”
"My name is Tom Recny. I’m the Chief Financial Officer with Mold Rite Plastics. Our bill last month went up $22,000 as a result of the increase in the price. With regard to the moratorium I think it’s important to kind of get a fix on this and a handle on this in light of the impact that it’s had. I’m also a board member at the hospital, CVPH, and I know they can ill-afford to have that kind of a rate increase as well."
“I’m Tom Pillsworth. I do live in the city of Plattsburgh. These data centers are not just going to be for Bitcoin miners. They’re going to start supporting all these other block chain initiatives around the world. And the biggest, most powerful companies, the smartest people in the whole world are all looking into this.”
SGX Analytics of Palo Alto, California is considering Plattsburgh for a data site. CEO Luis Sanchez told councilors he would be willing to work with them to find solutions. “What I see right now with Plattsburgh is an opportunity to take advantage of what can come out of block chain technology. Plattsburgh right now has a competitive advantage. But it’s not the only location. We have about ten perspective locations. We just happen to like Plattsburgh because of the combination of elements, especially the university. So miners can benefit, but the city too.”
Ward 1 Councilor Rachelle Armstrong was intrigued by the potential for investment but wanted more time to delve into concerns and suggested tabling the measure. Newly appointed Ward 5 Councilor Patrick McFarlin argued that a decision should be made as soon as possible. “To change the wording in the proposed law would probably take another two weeks probably require another public hearing. We’re probably pushing this whole thing off for close to a month. And then what happens within that month? We have many people coming in setting up shops in ways that aren’t beneficial for our overall city, for our view of setting up these businesses in a way that promotes investment, that promotes furthering the block chain agenda.”
After assurances that the moratorium could end earlier, the council passed it unanimously.
Link to the city of Plattsburgh’s video of the meeting here.