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Washington Power Utility Faces "Agitated" Encryptors and Increased Security

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The County of Washington's Chelan District (PUD) strengthens its security by citing employee safety concerns due of what he describes as "belligerent behavior" of cryptocurrency miners.

As previously reported, the Chelan County Public Service imposed a moratorium on bitcoin mining after a large influx of new crypto-miners seeking to take advantage of cheap and abundant hydroelectric power of the region. Officials from Chelan County claimed that they were "flooded" with demands even after the application of higher electricity rates for crypto-miners in mid-2016.

However, this moratorium has led to cases where crypto-miners have become "agitated and argumentative" with PUD employees, according to local publication Wenatchee World.

A spokeswoman for the PUD confirmed that no incident had led to seeking the help of law enforcement authorities. However, she added:

The volume of requests and the sense of urgency of the plaintiffs have changed the dynamics of the interaction between the staff and customers of cryptocurrency.

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"PUD field and office employees dealing with high-density charging problems have been met by a growing number of upset customers and potential customers," the spokeswoman said. "In some cases, people can become agitated and argumentative."

Specifically, the local report suggests that the behavior came from two cryptocurrency-related groups considered unauthorized minors who saw their power disconnected and saw their demands decline because of the emergency moratorium in place in March.

Chelan PUD commissioners confirmed steps taken by security director Rich Hyatt at PUD facilities because of the bellicose behavior of eager cryptocurrency miners on the utility's website.

"Some of the things we do internally," explained Hyatt, include "corporate safety measures," such as:

  • Ballistic (bulletproof) signs in the lobby and headquarters.
  • Increased coverage of CCTV cameras.
  • A smaller and safer entrance hall for PUD staff in the service building, separating them from clients.
  • Training security guards in search of clients with "negative body language" and "restless" clients
  • Front-line staff now have panic buttons.

Hyatt added:

"This is an opportunity to protect our property [against power theft] … to protect our field staff, to expand a workplace violence prevention program for those staff who are in the front line.

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In April, another PUD Washington operator in Mason County, 200 miles west of Chelan, also imposed a moratorium on new crypto-miner applications after determining he needed time to assess in the area.

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