Turning Down the Crypto Volume: Can Property Rights Silence the Noise Pollution?

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By Enoch Mutembei

A disruptive symphony of migraines, vertigo, and rattling windows is playing out for residents near crypto mining centers across the US. From Iowa to upstate New York, complaints echo against the relentless hum coming from Bitcoin mines, with Granbury, Texas, taking center stage in the cacophony.

Granbury residents have raised concerns about the ceaseless noise disrupting their nights, inducing migraines, and even prompting wild animals to abandon the area. The noise is a result of massive cooling fans working tirelessly to prevent mining equipment from overheating. Complicating matters is Texas’ fragile energy grid, highlighted by the 2021 deep freeze that left millions without power and some with dire consequences.

Legal Noise Limits and Violations

Texas state law deems unreasonable sound above 85 decibels, yet readings around the Granbury mine clock in at a disruptive 103 decibels. Chronic exposure to over 60 decibels, as noted by a cardiologist, poses cardiovascular risks. Violating the law in Texas incurs a $500 fine, with the possibility of injunctive relief for repeated offenses.

In the pro-industry, anti-regulation stronghold of Granbury, residents rightfully seek a remedy. Their grievances point to a legal avenue against cryptocurrency miners, revolving around the sacred concept of property rights.

Making Crypto Mines Good Neighbors

Enthusiasts propose that the key to combating Bitcoin mine pollution lies in property rights and nuisance laws. The disturbances experienced by residents within their homes are akin to a type of trespass, and property rights emerge as the means to hold crypto polluters accountable. The logic is clear: just as oil spills or toxic waste disposal infringe on property rights, noise pollution from crypto mines falls within the same spectrum.

Augmenting solid property rights, nuisance torts can act as a check on noise pollution. Drawing inspiration from anarcho-capitalist theorist Murray Rothbard, this approach emphasizes individuals’ absolute rights to enjoy their property, placing a stringent burden of proof on those alleging damages, enforced by the courts.

This dual-pronged strategy not only promises less noise pollution but also incentivizes innovation in quieter crypto mining technologies. It’s a pragmatic solution to an escalating problem, highlighting that outright bans are unnecessary. Local and state ordinances can effectively regulate crypto mines by securing property rights, fostering harmony between homeowners and mining operations.

Property Rights As a Defence

An approach rooted in individual liberty advocates for torts against polluters, property rights, and nuisance laws. Those affected by noise aggression could seek injunctions and damages, internalizing ‘sound externalities’ and compelling responsibility from crypto miners. This will result in quieter mining methods and stringent noise pollution management standards – a proposition the US crypto industry should champion.

In contrast, a different tactic in Georgia, led by Republican Rep Scott Hilton, seeks to centralize noise regulations at the state level, stripping local officials of their control.

Practical and theoretical solutions are at play. On the ground, a Bitcoin miner experimented with a 24-foot sound barrier wall, revealing both successes and challenges. Miners could consider agreements to power down during grid failures, potentially incentivized by regulators offering fixed power credits.

In the theoretical arena, a property rights-focused approach emerges as the potential antidote to crypto noise pollution. Now, lawmakers and courts stand at the crossroads, tasked with testing and implementing this resonant solution.

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