LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new law in Arkansas protecting cryptocurrency is said to bring an economic boost to communities, though some people in Vilonia are concerned about one coming just behind their neighborhood, and what it will cost them.

The law regulates digital asset mining and offers legal protections. It also recognizes things like cryptocurrency mining sites as data centers. The text of the law says data centers like these will create jobs, pay taxes and help local economies.

The purpose of the sites going into communities is to use their electricity to get a blockchain network and be able to generate digital assets.

Residents in Vilonia reached out to KARK with concerns after learning a site would go in near their home in town.

In Damascus, one has already gone in.

Robin Bullard, a resident in Vilonia, visited the site to see for herself what would be going on less than a mile behind her home.

“It sounded just like a tornado siren,” she said. “If we can’t decipher from a tornado siren and the crypto mining, what are we supposed to do?”

Other neighbors came with Bullard to speak to KARK News about their concerns with the site going in so close to their homes.

“I don’t think anyone is opposed to Vilonia city being able to make some revenue off this,” resident Dave Bowling said. “It should not come at the cost of health, safety, and property values.”

Another family said it would likely result in some drastic changes if the site in Vilonia sounds like the one they have heard about in Van Buren County.

“We would most likely end up having to sell and move,” Lyle Lindquist said.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Rick McClure provided a statement in response to concerns over noise and the site going in.

“In 2021 I became aware of digital asset mining in Arkansas. Like many others I was concerned about our power generation capabilities, and power grid overload with this new industry already operating in the state. Other states such as Mississippi, Missouri, and Montana are also addressing similar issues with pending legislation.

The intent of HB1799, now Act 851, is to protect our power generation capabilities, and protect our power grid.  It is also intended to reinforce that digital asset miners must be in compliance with all Arkansas laws just as any other business would have to be.

To protect our power generation and power grid required the input from our Public Service Commission and power providers. Protecting Arkansans is the top priority.

If digital asset miners are in compliance with all applicable state laws, local zoning ordinances, state and federal requirements, there is an anti-discrimination provision.

Issues of ownership of digital asset mining are not included in Act 851. Elevated noise levels are not specially addressed in Act 851, but existing state and federal environmental guidelines should be followed.”

Rep. Rick McClure

Cameron Baker is also a founding member of Arkansas Blockchain Council. Baker weighed in on the concerns and guidelines of the new law. He also testified in support of the bill while it was making its way through the legislature.

“In regards to noise in crypto; Mining is loud! But it’s also a solved problem. There are many technologies available – old and new – that can reduce the noise level to as low as it needs to be. What we colloquially refer to as “open-air mining” should never be conducted near residential areas without noise mitigation. We would not tolerate that noise level in our own neighborhoods and don’t think anyone else should have to either. 

HB 1799 – Is an attempt to bring regulatory certainty to the industry. 1799 is the aggregation of many constituent groups such as: major utilities, coops, municipals, committees, etc. who have, through their own contributions, provided much of the wording to be found within. This bill does not restrict any town, county, or other’s hands from choosing what’s best for their community through the normal zoning and permitting process, or any others not listed here. We did include language to prevent discriminatory laws from retroactively being applied with prejudice against industry participants; about as fair an ask as we could have made. Given the above, the bill passed with strong support. We thank everyone who contributed, and encourage anyone with additional concerns or questions to reach out directly to the Arkansas Blockchain Council.”

Cameron Baker

The Vilonia City Council and Planning Commission have approved plans for a site to go in already, final details are set to be discussed in the commission’s meeting on Thursday.

KARK News reached out to the Vilonia Mayor and a Planning Commission member for comment or updates on the site, but have not yet received a response.