Mining company could net over $6 million more in profit by then

JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) – Washington County has withdrawn its request for a temporary injunction that would shut down a rural Bitcoin mine it says is operating illegally and the case will now go to a full “trial on the merits” that is set for March 14-16.

Judge John Rambo had been set to hear on Wednesday the county’s arguments that he should issue a temporary injunction halting business at the facility in Limestone. The mine is operated by Red Dog Technologies on land it leases from BrightRidge next to the power provider’s Phipps substation.

Noise mitigation efforts including construction of a fence were under way Sept. 24 at a Bitcoin mine in rural Washington County, Tenn.

The county sued BrightRidge last month saying the operation violated A-3 (agriculture business) zoning regulations. The county commission approved a BrightRidge rezoning request for a “blockchain data center” in February 2020.

The county claims BrightRidge never divulged that a private company would actually be the operator, and that cryptocurrency mining would be the use.

Red Dog has been allowed to join the suit as both a defendant and in a countersuit against the county.

An order filed Friday says all three parties indicated they had “agreed to forego Temporary Injunction proceedings in favor or an expedited litigation schedule culminating with a trial on the merits commencing March 14, 2022…”

The initial hearing on the injunction request was Nov. 24, but Rambo said he’d prefer more time and Washington County attorney Allyson Wilkinson agreed to that. She also agreed to Red Dog joining the suit, but added that she believed a temporary injunction was warranted.

“(W)e’ve waited for months and months, and we’ve tried to take a very conservative view,” Wilkinson said. “And so if the court is of the opinion that Red Dog is an indispensable party and that it’s in the best interests of justice and the people of Washington County, the county of course would wait for them to be present.”

But that was for a two-week delay over an issue that began with neighbors of the facility complaining about its noise levels.

Now, the wait will extend for more than three months. That’s enough time, according to Red Dog’s own filings claiming the company would lose $36 million in net profits over 18 months if a shutdown occurred, for the company to net more than $6 million in additional profits.

Even on Nov. 24, Washington County Commissioner Freddie Malone said the two-week delay left him less than satisfied.

I was disappointed in the decision today in the fact that there was not a decision and it’s been delayed,” said at the time. “But, hopefully the groundwork is being laid for a positive decision in the future.”

That decision hinges largely on whether the current use complies with the A-3 ordinance. If the center were operated by a public utility, ie BrightRidge, it would meet the requirements.

In its counterclaim, Red Dog has also hinted that it will try to establish that Washington County did know the plan was to have a private company run a crypto mine on the site — and that the planning commission and county commission approved the request anyway.

Craig Ponder lives near the site and said after the first hearing Nov. 24 that he understands the “wheels turn slow” in cases like this.

“I’m also convinced that if these guys lived down there, if they lived there every day like we are living there every day, this thing would have been resolved a long time ago,” Ponder said.

“None of us even understand what bitcoin even is. Yet we are expected to endure this invasion for something that will probably never benefit anybody living in our community.”