The Chehalis City Council voted unanimously to move to a final vote on a cryptocurrency mining moratorium during its regular meeting Monday.
The moratorium would prohibit the establishment of new cryptocurrency mining operations.
The proposed moratorium comes two months after the expiration of a similar moratorium by the Lewis County Public Utility District. In those two months since the PUD’s moratorium expired, at least three cryptocurrency mining operations have been set up in Chehalis, including one in the Port of Chehalis, one in Yard Birds and one in a former Mexican restaurant on Meridian Drive, according to the city.
According to Tammy Baraconi, the Chehalis planning and building manager who presented on the matter at the council meeting, there are multiple potential problems posed by cryptocurrency mining. One is the large amount of electricity needed to run the computers while also powering the cooling systems needed to manage the significant heat created in the mining process, which itself presents a fire hazard.
She also said in addition to the heavy electricity usage and potential safety hazard, the mining operations didn’t employ people as the whole system is computer-operated.
Baraconi told the council she believes any new cryptocurrency mining businesses should be required to operate in the Port of Chehalis due to the already existing infrastructure in the area for high electricity usage.
Baraconi pointed to the example of Wenatchee, where she said cryptocurrency mining has resulted in blackouts and brownouts.
During the presentation to the council, it was mentioned that other mining businesses may be currently operating in Chehalis that have not been discovered yet. Baraconi said the cryptocurrency mining business on Meridian Drive was only discovered after a city employee drove by the business and didn’t recall ever being informed of a business requesting a license to operate there. She also told the council the PUD was supportive of the city enacting a moratorium on cryptocurrency mining.
During the presentation on the potential moratorium, Councilor Bob Spahr said he had known nothing about the issue before it was brought to his attention and wanted to learn more.
“Cryptomining uses electricity? I had no clue,” Spahr said, adding the situation reminded him of the period following marjiuana legalization.
Councilor Isaac Pope raised concerns about potential liabilities the city could incur and was told by city staff in attendance they would examine the legal ramifications of cryptocurrency mining for the city.
After the presentation, Spahr moved for the council to have a vote on the moratorium and was seconded by Pope. The council then voted unanimously to move forward on the proposal.
During the meeting, Mayor Tony Ketchum presented the Chehalis Rotary Club with a proclamation recognizing it for 101 years of service. During the presentation, eight members of the Rotary Club came forward and stood beside Ketchum as he read the proclamation. The Chehalis Rotary Club was one of the first to be established in the country, becoming the 60th branch out of 35,000 that would be established. As part of the proclamation, June 2022 was declared Rotary Month in Chehalis. After the presentation, one member of the club said some words of thanks for the recognition.
“We’d like to thank the city, the council and the city manager for recognizing 100 years and we hope for another 100 years,” a Rotary representative said at the meeting.
The council members voted unanimously to move forward on a proposed change to the city’s ordinance regarding Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) requirements. Under current city policy, the traffic impact area that would need to be analyzed for a development project includes the entirety of the city of Chehalis and only one condition from a list of six needs to be met to require a TIA. The proposed changes would amend the requirement to need two conditions before needing a TIA. The city officials who presented the proposal to the council said they believed the change would make the process for approval of projects less burdensome. Ketchum said during the discussion he believed the current policy was enacted without enough consideration of the impact the low threshold would have on development projects. Spahr moved to go forward with the proposal and was seconded by council member Kate McDougall. The council then voted to move forward unanimously.
The council also confirmed Scott Forsman to the city Planning Commission as part of a unanimous approval of the consent calendar.