Fluoride Action Network

Intel air quality: Committee created by fluoride settlement begins work

Source: The Oregonian | November 20th, 2014 | By Luke Hammill
Location: United States, Oregon
Industry type: Electronics Industry

The first meeting of a committee created in the wake of Intel’s failure to disclose fluoride emissions began with a polite – but adversarial – greeting.

“I’m pleased to meet you,” said committee member Dale Feik, addressing Intel attorney Tom Wood. “I’m a critic of you.”

Feik, a member of the Washington County Citizen Action Network, has objected to Wood’s written plea in July that the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality adopt weaker rules that would allow Intel to avoid regulation under a strict Environmental Protection Agency program.

Feik and Wood are two of 10 members of the new Air Quality Advisory Committee, created when Intel settled with two environmental watchdog groups who had threatened to sue the tech giant over the fluoride emissions. The committee – charged with negotiating a “good neighbor agreement” between Intel, Neighbors for Clean Air and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center – held its inaugural meeting Wednesday night at the Hillsboro Public Library’s Shute Park branch.

Other members included retired political science professor Russ Dondero of the Washington County Citizen Action Network, Neighbors for Clean Air attorney John Krallman and Jill Eiland, Intel’s Northwest region corporate affairs manager. About 20 people watched from the audience.

The chipmaker agreed in the settlement (which expires at the end of 2015) to take an emissions inventory, perform an air quality risk assessment and publicly release monitoring data taken at its Aloha and Ronler Acres factories. The Air Quality Advisory Committee will oversee that work and also advise the three parties as they negotiate the good neighbor agreement, which could carry Intel’s obligations further into the future.

The committee hopes to negotiate the good neighbor agreement by the end of next year. Intel, in the meantime, also has to get a new permit from DEQ for its multibillion-dollar D1X project, which continues to be built in Hillsboro.

The Air Quality Advisory Committee didn’t decide anything Wednesday night; rather, the members introduced themselves, reviewed the terms of the settlement agreement and laid out a tentative schedule. They’ll meet every other month until June, when meetings would become more frequent.

That didn’t stop things from getting visibly and audibly contentious at certain points. Feik and others repeatedly criticized Intel for its emissions and also lambasted the DEQ for being unequipped and perhaps unwilling to regulate the business. DEQ officials weren’t present, however, and the committee has no authority over the state agency.

Intel first acknowledged that it had failed to disclose fluoride emissions when it sought environmental permits for D1X. The DEQ found that Intel should have disclosed the emissions in 2004 and gotten a stricter permit before beginning construction of the research facility.

But the state agency allowed work to continue and fined the tech giant $143,000 earlier this year.

The DEQ ruled that Intel had to get a new construction permit and include the fluoride emissions in its application. Intel also applied in 2013 for a federal Title V permit, which “most large sources…of air pollution” are required to obtain, the EPA  has said. But that process was put on hold after news of the fluoride emissions surfaced.

Because of a recent United States Supreme Court ruling, Intel may not have to obtain the Title V permit, and the company could also avoid regulation under the EPA’s rigorous Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program.

The DEQ could still require Intel to abide by the stricter rules, but state officials have temporarily aligned the agency with the Supreme Court ruling and will vote on a permanent rule early next year. If Intel doesn’t have to get a Title V permit, the DEQ has said, it will have to renew its current Air Contaminant Discharge Permit, which is less complex than Title V but holds the company to a similar standard. (It would still avoid regulation under PSD in that case.)

In August, Hillsboro and Washington County officials approved a historic 30-year deal with Intel that will grant the company more than $2 billion in potential property tax breaks on up to $100 billion in local investment.

The committee’s next meeting will be in January.