To the editor:
At the end of the Port Authority board meeting in May, there was mention of Bitcoin’s interest in buying or leasing (not sure which) part of the former Stinger Welding building. In answer to my question about jobs, the board said no, Bitcoin wouldn’t be employing anybody except maybe one or two to maintain the fans. The company wants 5 megawatts of power, which the board said was about all the available power on the millsite. That is more power than consumed by the entire city of Libby.
I was at the meeting to comment on the Bitcoin “mine” in the old plywood plant in Bonner.
Dozens of homeowners have complained for months of high decibel 24/7 noise from the roof fans trying to cool the tremendous heat given off by the servers. A woman who lives near the millsite said that the noise was “aggravating, intense, and, to some, totally intolerable.” Neighbors said they couldn’t keep their windows open, their pets wouldn’t stay outside and the birds had disappeared. Bitcoin’s solution was to change some fan blades but they wanted the public to pay for it with tax increment financing (TIF). Didn’t work. In opposing the request, Missoula Development Authority board member Jim Valeo said, “You guys brought this business here and no products are produced and huge amounts of energy are consumed. You guys are not good citizens,” he continued, “You’re offensive citizens. It’s an unfortunate development. You didn’t do your homework to see what would happen there.”
When I talked on the phone with Missoula Co. Commissioner Dave Strohmaier, he expressed regret that “the pressures of economic development” had made them sign a deal with Bitcoin before they knew anything about them.
Since Bitcoin is providing little or no employment and proposing to take nearly all the available power, the only benefit to Libby is the money gained by the Port Authority for the lease or sale of the Stinger building. This is “the pressure of economic development.”
Bitcoin pleaded poverty when they went after the TIF tax monies, but they are a very rich company; in a different class from little Lincoln County. They’re not “mining” anything. We know what mining is around here. They’ve hijacked the language of work to make it appear that work is being done.
Thankfully, Flathead Electric Coop. has slapped a 6 month to one year moratorium on these huge and increasing energy demands by Bitcoin, citing a “reliability risk to the Cooperative’s electric distribution system.” Let’s learn from Bonner’s experience and not be dazzled by this 21st century robber baron. Libby needs room and power for value-added businesses.