Town of Massena extends crypto moratorium to Jan. 31
BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI
North Country This Week
MASSENA — The Massena Town Board has once again extended the crypto mining moratorium, this time until Jan. 31, 2023.
Board members voted unanimously for the measure, saying they wanted to ensure they do things the right way and implement regulations that protect the town and its residents.One individual spoke during the public comment period prior to the vote, arguing for a permanent stay on such operations until the state takes action.
“I have reached out to Kathy Hochul’s office as well as the DEC and I have yet to hear anything regarding regulations for these operations. There is nothing in the pipeline,” the speaker said.
To date, no legislation has been passed at the state level regarding such operations despite state officials weighing a potential statewide moratorium while they flesh out regulations.
Another chief concern of the public speaker was the lack of regulation concerning asset losses if the crypto currencies went bankrupt.
“If I take out an IRA it’s protected, it’s guaranteed. But if these crypto companies go bankrupt, I’m out everything. There are literally no regulations that protections for anyone invested,” he said.
The speaker also highlighted the recent financial and legal troubles seen by the bankruptcy of FTX as a prime example.
The concerned citizen also argued that crypto mining facilities offered little to the North Country in regards to potential job creation and economic growth.
“I read a story that said one of these operations employees over 80 or 90 people. I don’t know a single person that works there and I can guarantee there aren’t that many people. I have friends that have said there may have been that many when they were setting up the computers but that there is no way that many people work there now,” he said.
To date North Country Colocation Services employs over 100 people with plans to continue to expand hiring in the near future, according to CEO David Fogel.
Things became a little tense when the speaker said the town board “appeared to not know what they were doing” by extending the moratorium multiple times over the course of a year.
“I think it’s about time you just admit you don’t know what you’re talking about and put a moratorium in place permanently until the state takes some sort of action,” the speaker said.
Board Member Tom Miller took exception to the comment, saying the board has been diligent in research every week with a report being generated by Board Member Debra Willer regarding crypto mining.
“We are continuing to do our research, every single week, and continue to discuss these matters. We want to make sure that we do the right thing and what is best for this town and for the people of Massena,” Miller said.
In the end the moratorium was extended but Town Attorney Eric Gustafson said he felt they were on the cusp of being able to institute regulations at the town level very soon.
“I would say by the end of December or in January we may be there. We’re very close right now,” he said.
Concerns about the impact such operations would have on Massena Electric and residential rates was also addressed, with Gustafson once again explaining that the mining operations pay for electric at a specific, pre-negotiated tariff.
“There are safeguards and measures in place to ensure there is no impact or liability to MED. They have done their due diligence and research and have taken multiple precautions. They are very familiar with credit analysis and risk mitigation, that isn’t new to MED,” Gustafson said.
In the case of some operations, like NCCS, power is purchased directly from the open market in New York, which allows the company to negotiate a rate from power providers. In that case, Massena Electric has zero involvement with the power being delivered to the facilities in the old Alcoa East plant.
With the moratorium in place still no new operations can setup in Massena and current operations are unable to expand and request more power or site plan changes.
Officials say the decision is one that is not taken lightly but is very necessary to protect the town, its residents and its resources.