Report: Utah Considers Cutting Off Water to the NSA’s Monster Data Center

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From an article on  Lawmakers are considering a bill that would shut off the water spigot to the massive data center operated by the National Security Agency in Bluffdale, Utah.

The legislation, proposed by Utah lawmaker Marc Roberts, is due to go to the floor of the Utah House of Representatives early next year, but it was debated in a Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee meeting on Wednesday. The bill, H.B. 161, directs municipalities like Bluffdale to “refuse support to any federal agency which collects electronic data within this state.”

The NSA brought its Bluffdale data center online about a year ago, taking advantage Utah’s cheap power and a cut-rate deal for millions of gallons of local water, used to cool the 1-million-square-foot building’s servers. Roberts’ bill, however, would prohibit the NSA from negotiating new water deals when its current Bluffdale agreement runs out in 2021.

The law seems like a long-shot to clear legislative hurdles when Utah’s legislature re-convenes next year, but Wednesday’s committee hearing was remarkable, nonetheless, says Nate Carlisle, a reporter with the Salt Lake Tribune who has waged a fight with the NSA and Bluffdale officials to determine how much water the data center is actually using. “What’s noteworthy is no one on the panel said: ‘Hey, wait a minute, we can’t do this,’” he says. “They had some specific concerns about the language of the bill, but there was no outright opposition.”

Utah lawmakers on the committee could have voted to give the bill an “unfavorable” review on the spot, essentially dooming it on the floor, but they didn’t do that.

Instead, they simply listened to testimony on the NSA and Bluffdale’s support of the center. “I just don’t want to subsidize what they’re doing on the back of our citizens,” Carlisle quotes Republican Representative Roger Barrus as saying during the meeting.

Utah has a long history of disputes with the federal government, but this is the first time Carlisle remembers anyone proposing to cut off water to a federal agency. “I think it’s representative of an attitude change in Utah that the bill is even being discussed,” he says.

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