Lawmakers target stalemate on power for crypto miners – Wyoming Tribune

Lawmakers target stalemate on power for crypto miners – Wyoming Tribune

Blockchain Crypto Market Technology
April 29, 2022 by Coinvasity
17
Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, speaks in Casper at a joint state legislative committee discussion of his bill on limited power deregulation on Monday, April 25, 2022. Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, speaks in Casper at a joint state legislative committee discussion of his bill on limited power deregulation on Monday, April 25, 2022.During a lengthy hearing
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Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, speaks in Casper at a joint state legislative committee discussion of his bill on limited power deregulation on Monday, April 25, 2022.

Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, speaks in Casper at a joint state legislative committee discussion of his bill on limited power deregulation on Monday, April 25, 2022.
During a lengthy hearing Monday, there were signs that a legislative stalemate could be broken, or at least that discussions could advance, on how to help digital currency miners get more electricity and at lower rates.
Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle and stakeholders who testified Monday in Casper showed some openness to creating ways to serve the power-hungry cryptocurrency industry.
At this interim work session held by the Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee, there appeared to be more acceptance of the idea that some changes might be needed to interest Wyoming crypto companies in using scores of computers to virtually make these financial assets.
By contrast, when the bill up for discussion, Senate File 71, previously came up at Senate Minerals Committee hearings during the Legislature’s regular session earlier this year, the reception was more negative.
Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, was the only lawmaker to vote yes on SF 71. It would have created deregulated industrial power zones so that high-technology companies and others could strike alternative power deals that do not necessarily involve the incumbent utility.
About 99% of the time, “our regulatory structure is great,” Rothfuss said near the start of Monday’s hearing.
While his bill may not be the answer, the Laramie lawmaker said that “if we leave our current system in place, I cannot imagine any company (that needs a lot of power) coming to Wyoming.”
Prospects to revive the same bill did not appear likely. All witnesses and legislators who spoke agreed they did not necessarily want to pursue total deregulation of the state’s power industry. Some suggested this could be a backstop to keep in mind if the utilities can’t work out some new approach to get crypto miners the electricity they want.
Statewide energy deregulation could take years, many testified. That could be too long for power-hungry virtual miners who say they each want dozens, if not hundreds, of megawatts of power quickly, sometimes approaching the amount some of the state’s largest cities such as Cheyenne consume.
For wide-scale deregulation, “if you could do that in five years, I think that is pretty optimistic,” said Wyoming Public Service Commission Chief Counsel John Burbridge. “I would imagine that it would be a pretty (extensive) endeavor. It is not something that could happen overnight.”
Stakeholders are searching for ways to proceed that do not involve such dramatic changes.
A way forward?
The difference between now and earlier this year when SF 71 died in the Senate committee without getting a House-side hearing is that lawmakers Monday cleared the way for a process to try to resolve crypto-utility differences.
The way forward this time is for an informal subcommittee or panel from the bicameral Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee to split off as a smaller group with a keen interest in the issue, the joint committee’s members told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
Typically when such a panel is appointed, it has a few members from each chamber, said Rep. Mike Greear, R-Worland. He helped run the hearing and is chairman of the House Minerals, Business and Natural Resources Committee.
“A couple legislators who are passionate about it” might be named to help helm the discussions, Greear said. With stakeholders, they could “spend a day on it,” and not merely a few hours such as at this hearing.
The crypto portion began a little late and ended close to 90 minutes beyond its appointed time.
Under the auspices of such a forthcoming panel, this is “where can we find common ground” and attempt to get the sides to “hash it out,” Greear said. “And then bring some recommendations back” to the full joint committee.
One potential member is Rep. Danny Eyre, R-Lyman. His name came up because before retiring and eventually elected, he worked at the Bridger Valley Electric co-operative for about 35 years, including serving as general manager. That utility expertise could give him a useful perspective.
Asked after the meeting if he would serve on the panel if asked, Eyre said yes, though he did not seek to put himself forward for it.
Given his lengthy involvement in the state’s power industry, he said there have long been discussions about carving out certain entities from the regulated power system. The new flavor is that crypto wants a piece of the pie.
Deregulation regrets elsewhere
Eyre said that of about 15 states that have enacted some form of energy industry deregulation, several may regret it while others that did not might be thankful they sat this previous trend out. He wondered aloud whether the issue could be addressed without deregulation.
“It’s very difficult to carve out industrial users without creating adverse impact for other ratepayers,” Eyre said. “We need to be very careful that we don’t have negative impact on residential customers.”
Another potential ad hoc panel member is Rothfuss. He is a proponent of attracting crypto to Wyoming, which he said the state is doing a good job on except for when it comes to energy.
As one GOP member of the joint minerals panel was heard remarking after the hearing, it’s interesting that Rothfuss as a Democrat is helping to lead the push for deregulation. Usually, it’s Republicans who carry that banner.
Regardless of who ultimately ends up on the energy group, it would aim to convene a meeting with all sides of the issue, lawmakers said. The goal would be for something to be discussed in time for the June 27-28 gathering in Casper of the full Minerals Committee.
During the hearing, a PSC staffer suggested that his agency could help provide a venue for getting stakeholders together. Under what lawmakers envision, it is more likely that the PSC could participate like any other party in the stakeholder meeting, rather than acting as the convening authority, Greear said.
One local legislator spoke as a witness advocating for ways to help satisfy virtual miners’ sizable appetites for power.
“The deregulated concept could work quite well for the large industrial users,” said Rep. Pat Sweeney, R-Casper.
He acknowledged concerns that crypto mining may not stick around in any area very long and stakeholders said mobile operations can easily move.
“Whether cryptocurrency lasts, I hope it does,” he said.
A likely next step when it comes to energy for virtual miners is for legislators to be selected to speak with stakeholders. A possible goal is for them all to come forward with some sort of plan in time for a June 27-28 interim committee meeting.
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