DOE Plans Revised Crypto Mining Energy Survey After Legal Setback

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is preparing for a second attempt to survey crypto mining companies about their energy usage after its initial effort was halted by a lawsuit. This time, the department is seeking input from industry participants before moving forward.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA), a federal agency within the DOE responsible for energy statistics and analysis, hosted a public webinar on Wednesday to gather comments from interested parties, including crypto miners and industry experts, on how the survey should be designed ahead of a planned rulemaking proposal. This proposal is set to be published in the Federal Register.

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In January, the agency had proposed a mandatory survey for nearly 500 identified commercial crypto miners, requiring them to disclose detailed data about their energy use or face civil and criminal penalties. This survey, authorized by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), bypassed the usual notice and comment process due to its classification as an emergency data collection request.

The mandatory survey was met with immediate backlash from crypto miners. Marty Bent, director at bitcoin mining firm Cathedra Bitcoin, labeled the survey “Orwellian” in a blog post, expressing fears that it could lead to the creation of a “hyper-detailed registry of mining operations” in the U.S.

The following month, the Texas Blockchain Council (TBC) and mining company Riot Platforms filed a lawsuit against the DOE, EIA, OMB, and various officials. They accused the agencies of violating the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and sought a temporary restraining order and injunction to halt the survey until the proper notice and comment process was followed.

In response, the EIA agreed to temporarily suspend the survey in February and is now attempting a revised approach.

During the EIA’s 45-minute webinar on Wednesday, more than 100 attendees participated, and 10 individuals, including crypto miners, industry participants, researchers, and a member of the public, provided their input.

Bitcoin researcher Margot Paez, a PhD candidate at the Georgia Institute of Technology and sustainability consultant at the Bitcoin Policy Institute, acknowledged the need for a survey but expressed concerns about the EIA’s motives. She suggested that an independent institution should conduct the survey.

Lee Bratcher, president and founder of the Texas Blockchain Council, recommended that the EIA include traditional data centers in the survey, not just crypto-focused ones. This suggestion was echoed by Jayson Browner, senior vice president of government affairs at Marathon Digital Holdings, who warned that the industry would be skeptical if traditional data centers were excluded.

Stephen Harvey, an official with the EIA, indicated that all options were being considered, including the inclusion of traditional data centers. “At this point we’re considering everything,” Harvey said, adding that the idea was “clearly on the table.”

Harvey announced that the EIA is developing a preliminary proposal expected to be published in the Federal Register this quarter. There will be a 60-day comment period for the industry to respond to the proposal.

“At the end of that 60 days we will take all the information in as well, and we’ll look at that and make any adjustments based on new information that we think are necessary. We will respond to major issues that get raised in that process, and file a new posting for the federal register,” Harvey explained.

Following this, there will be a 30-day review process. The final decision on whether the EIA can proceed with its survey will rest with the OMB.