TAZEWELL, Tenn. — Scott Wade believes cryptocurrency mining is the industry of the future. That belief, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, are why he decided to build a number of mining operation locations across the southeast.
"This is a new industry coming to the U.S. and our company is helping facilitate that," said the head of operations for Exponential Digital.
Wade said they've set up operations in Jellico, Oneida, Maynardville, Decatur, and Tazewell, in addition to one in North Carolina.
But on Tuesday, dozens of people packed the Claiborne County Planning Commission to express their frustrations about how the operation moved into town.
The group began operations without permits or prior knowledge of the planning board.
"As far as rules and regulations, there's nothing here to prohibit what they've done," Mayor Joe Brooks said. "We know in certain areas these things produce a lot of heat. One thing we’ve got to look at is what are we going to do if one catches on fire?”
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He said the only fire department in the area, the South Claiborne Volunteer Fire Department, is not equipped to handle electrical fires. He wishes they could've addressed that concern and others before the company set up.
"Now we’re playing catch up on that stuff," Mayor Brooks said.
Rodney Fugate, chair of the county planning commission, said there is nothing they can do to stop the cryptocurrency mining operation.
"Nothing. Nothing at all and for that, I apologize," Fugate said. "There are no zoning laws here."
He said the county commission could look at adopting zoning ordinances in the future to prevent future startups such as this one. On Tuesday, however, Fugate emphasized there was nothing more they could do.
“We felt we were complying with everything we needed to," Wade said. "It was never our intention to slide around or be sneaky and that’s why I wanted to come here today.”