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EIA voluntarily pauses Bitcoin miner survey following lawsuit over energy scrutiny

A US court has temporarily suspended an Energy Information Administration (EIA) directive requiring Bitcoin miners to participate in a mandatory survey. 

The decision, made by Judge Alan Albright, prevents the EIA from enforcing the Texas Blockchain Council and its members to submit survey responses or from collecting and sharing any data, including that already received, for a duration of four weeks.

EIA Administrator Joseph DeCarolis announced that the agency would pause the survey on its own accord until March 22, with assurances of not penalizing non-respondents before March 25. Despite this voluntary pause, Judge Albright stated that a mere declaration does not suffice to alleviate concerns regarding the enforcement threat from other defendants or beyond the specified date, nor does it address the survey’s compliance costs.

The temporary halt comes in the wake of a lawsuit by Riot Platforms and the Texas Blockchain Council against the Department of Energy’s scrutiny of crypto miners’ energy consumption. The EIA had previously initiated a survey focusing on the electricity usage by select US crypto mining companies, authorized as an “emergency collection of data request” by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Further, EIA’s DeCarolis expressed the agency’s intent to continue analyzing the energy implications of US cryptocurrency mining activities, emphasizing the evolving energy demand, identification of high-growth areas, and the electricity sources utilized by miners.

The lawsuit filed by Riot Platforms and the Texas Blockchain Council criticized the EIA’s survey as both a “sloppy government process” and an example of “invasive government data collection,” labeling the urgent need for data as “contrived.” The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding the EIA’s rationale for the emergency data collection to fall significantly short of justifying the action and suggesting a likelihood of success in proving the defendants’ actions arbitrary and capricious.

This legal pushback stems from broader concerns within the cryptocurrency sector over regulatory scrutiny, particularly regarding energy consumption. The plaintiffs argue that the EIA and OMB’s actions violate the Paperwork Reduction Act by collecting information without due process. This lawsuit marks a significant challenge to regulatory pressures from the Biden Administration on the crypto industry, focusing on the legitimacy and methodology of the government’s data collection efforts.

Amid the ongoing debate over cryptocurrency’s environmental impact, a recently surfaced email exchange purportedly between Satoshi Nakamoto and Martti ‘Sirius’ Malmi offers historical insight. While the authenticity of these emails remains unconfirmed, they reveal early discussions about Bitcoin’s energy consumption. 

Contrary to contemporary critiques of Bitcoin’s significant energy use, Satoshi anticipated the cryptocurrency would be more energy-efficient than traditional banking systems. Highlighting the potential for economic freedom with reduced ecological impact, Satoshi argued that even if Bitcoin were to consume substantial energy, it would likely be less wasteful than the existing financial system, with its reliance on physical infrastructure and marketing practices.

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