Bitcoin Miners Show Muscle Pushing Back Against Warrantless ‘Emergency’ Order

Bitcoin Miners Assert Dominance in Battling Unjust ‘Emergency’ Order

Bitcoin enthusiasts have achieved a major triumph in their fight against the U.S. Department of Energy’s emergency bitcoin mining order. Legal documents reveal that the Energy Information Administration (EIA) will abandon its compulsory survey sent to hundreds of miners and adhere to the required notice and comment period as stipulated by law. The EIA hastily issued the order in February, emphasizing the urgency of collecting data due to its alleged national significance.

This development comes as a response to a lawsuit filed by the Texas Blockchain Council, Riot Platforms, New Civil Liberties Alliance, and Chamber of Digital Commerce against the DOE. In February, the lawsuit won a temporary restraining order, limiting the government’s ability to gather data. The overseeing court concluded that the original emergency order request lacked sufficient justification.

The crypto industry quickly rallied against the questionable justification for the order, demonstrating rare unity in resisting unnecessary regulatory interference. For example, Lee Bratcher of the Texas Blockchain Council highlighted in a CoinDesk op-ed the potential politicization of the data request and its potential to foster misleading narratives about the blockchain industry’s impact on the national power grid. The New Civil Liberties Alliance suggested that the EIA’s report was influenced by “political pressure” rather than a genuine desire to prevent public harm.

The EIA will now explore alternative methods of obtaining the data, which could genuinely facilitate valuable insights, without infringing upon individuals’ constitutional rights. The agency will publish a proposal notice in the Federal Register and destroy any previously collected information, according to court documents.

Importantly, the initial survey request lacked details regarding the government’s measures to protect confidential corporate information or the anonymization process if the data were to be publicly published. Bratcher, a former DOE employee, emphasized these concerns. The lawsuit filed by Riot and the other plaintiffs argued that crypto miners would suffer immediate and irreparable harm if forced to disclose confidential and sensitive proprietary information to the EIA. Non-compliance with the survey posed the threat of criminal penalties against the miners.

While Bratcher acknowledged that the data gathering could shed light on an increasingly important sector, he expressed a desire for the EIA to work collaboratively with the industry to design a more accurate and useful survey. For instance, the survey should inquire not only about the energy consumption of miners and their energy providers but also about the capacity for flexible electricity consumption to benefit the grid and encourage greener energy production.

Interestingly, in Texas, miners cooperate directly with the state’s grid operator to reduce energy consumption during network stress, such as the winter storm in 2021 that left numerous people without power. This situation adds irony to the EIA’s emergency order, which aimed to evaluate how mining could potentially cause public harm.

The EIA will now initiate a 60-day public comment period once the new Federal Register notice is published. While the survey might eventually make a return in some form, this victory signifies a significant achievement for an industry currently under scrutiny from U.S. officials. Notably, figures like Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and Senator Elizabeth Warren consistently equate crypto with fraud and arguably engage in efforts to stifle its growth.

It is worth noting that Warren has been particularly vocal about reining in the mining sector, and states like New York are implementing moratoriums to slow down its development. Occasionally, when crypto fights back, as seen in the Ripple vs. the SEC case, it can secure a victory when given a fair opportunity in the courts.