Texas legislators are throwing their weight behind bitcoin mining with two bills passed in the latest legislative session that are signaling support for the industry — and one thwarted for the time being.
In the past few weeks, two bills — SB 1929 and HB 591 — that show support for miners have made it through the legislative stage and are awaiting Gov. Greg Abbott’s signature. If signed, they take effect on Sept. 1.
The bill SB 1929 requires miners whose energy capacity is larger than 75 megawatts (MW) to register with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of Texas as large loads operators, which then shares their data with the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator. The bill is in line with the March 2022 interim interconnection process formed by ERCOT’s Large Flexible Loads Taskforce, which is responsible for drafting policy to manage big electric loads such as bitcoin miners.
Meanwhile, HB 591 was sent to the governor on April 18, and will introduce tax exemptions from companies that put to use otherwise wasted gas, including data centers.
“These bills signal that Texas remains the jurisdiction of choice for bitcoin, blockchain, and digital assets,” said Lee Bratcher, president of local industry group Texas Blockchain Council (TBC).
The third bill, SB 1751 — dubbed by some the "anti bitcoin mining bill" and which would have capped the industry’s participation in cost-saving demand-response programs — was stopped at the committee stage. Demand-response programs are various schemes in which miners get power credits for curtailing their operations at times of peak energy demand.
State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, the bill’s lead sponsor did not respond to CoinDesk’s request for comment on this story.
"More miners in the [demand-response] program means more load can be reliably called on to help balance the grid," said Dennis Porter, who leads another industry advocacy group, Satoshi Action Fund. "We are increasing communication with the PUC and ERCOT which will improve transparency and publicly available data on mining which ultimately is good for the industry," he noted.
However, the opposition of SB 1751 isn't what defeated it, said Jackie Sawicky, who has brought together hundreds of Texas residents in an activist group called Concerned Citizens of Navarro County. "The house just didn't prioritize it and the session ended/ran out of time,” so the bill can be reintroduced in the next session, she said. The next session will start in January 2025.
Bill SB 1751 would have taken the threshold for registering with state grid authorities to 10 MW.
“Texas is setting a standard for how to adopt this new and innovative technology,” said Porter.
Texas is one of the largest bitcoin mining hubs in the world due to cheap energy and friendly regulators. As policy on bitcoin mining at the federal level has lagged, the state, the largest by energy production in the U.S., is marching on with its own rules.
Meanwhile, a 30% tax on bitcoin mining proposed by the Biden administration appears to have stalled. The tax didn’t make it into a bill on the debt ceiling, which passed on Wednesday. According to Rep. Warren Davidson, the tax will likely not return as part of the U.S. budget.
“With policy stagnation at the federal level, the states are stepping up to be the incubators of innovation,” TBC’s Bratcher said.
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