Plattsburgh considers ban on bitcoin mining

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) Could Plattsburgh ban Bitcoin mining? Bitcoin miners compete for the coins by submitting answers to difficult math problems. And there's some concern that running the computers needed for that could drain Plattsburgh's electricity.

"Since we have decentralized authority then there is no single point of failure-- that was the point," said David Bowman of the Plattsburgh BTC.

Commercial Cryptocurrency-- better known as bitcoins-- began during the financial crisis of 2008-2009 when people stopped trusting their banks.

Bowman started researching it in 2014. And after realizing he could make some money from it, he rented space from the former Imperial Mills paper warehouse and started setting up the servers. Those mine bitcoin. It takes a lot of power. Twenty computer servers make up Plattsburgh BTC.

The city was concerned those servers might lead to a spike in energy usage.

"With great use of additional power we are put over our threshold each winter and we are put over our threshold of ratepayers," said Mayor Colin Read, D-Plattsburgh.

The Lighting Department told WCAX News there are at least two miners in the city and they're using about 11.2 megawatts of power. But they said the energy spikes they've seen in the last few months are likely normal seasonal swings due to the cold weather. However, the city is still considering banning commercial cryptocurrency mining. Here's why: In Massena, there's a mining operation with thousands of servers. It's actually so large, they have more than a dozen employees. Plattsburgh is concerned that could happen there and cause a major energy usage spike down the line.

Bowman says he thinks it won't be a problem and the law isn't necessary.

"You know you need to like protect people in the town from being adversely affected by increased electricity rates but I think there are ways to do that like possibly charging the miners more," Bowman said. "I think it's not a great idea to just completely ban the whole thing-- it's just too new."

There is a public hearing at 5 p.m. March 15 to further discuss the possible moratorium on mining sites in the city.