Intel committed to pursuing an environmentally rigorous, retroactive construction permit for its multibillion-dollar D1X expansion in an attempt to mitigate fallout from its fluoride flub, according to a letter its lawyer sent the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in November.
Intel and the DEQ have been in closed-door talks for months on how to move forward after revelations that the company failed to disclose its fluoride emissions for decades. That admission stymied the company’s pursuit of a new air quality permit for its Hillsboro and Aloha campuses.
An environmental watchdog group has filed a notice of intent to sue Intel over the fluorides issue but is negotiating a “Good Neighbor Agreement” that may avert a suit.
Though Intel and state regulators maintain the fluoride did not represent a health hazard, the oversight has stoked local tension about the environmental impact of chipmaker’s massive buildout.
California-based Intel has its largest and most advanced operations in Washington County, where where 70 percent of its Oregon employees live. The company designs each new generation of microprocessor at its Ronler Acres campus near Hillsboro Stadium.
Neither an Intel spokeswoman nor a DEQ spokesman would say whether the company plans to apply for the rigorous construction permit, called a Prevention of Significant Deterioration permit, retroactively.
Both said the issue was still under discussion.
The possible construction permit, and its significance, boils down to this: Had the agency known about the fluoride releases when it approved Intel’s massive D1X buildout, the company might have needed to go through more rigorous emissions vetting and a public hearing, according to the DEQ. Instead, the agency issued the company a letter of approval in late 2010.
A Nov. 4, 2013, letter from Intel attorney Thomas R. Wood to the DEQ makes at least the offer to obtain such a permit explicit. Though the company maintains the PSD permit exceeds its legal duties.
“Intel is willing to go beyond what is required by the Department’s regulations in order to assure its neighbors that the company is not making their air unsafe to breathe,” Wood wrote.
In addition to negotiating a Good Neighbor Agreement with Neighbors for Clean Air, the group threatening suit, Wood extends the PSD permit offer for its fluoride and greenhouse gas emissions.
“Intel is also committing to submit a PSD application covering, at a minimum, its fluoride and GHG emissions.”
Neighbors for Clean Air attorney John Krallman said Intel officials have also told the group they will seek a PSD permit for D1X, a lengthy and fairly rigorous process that requires emissions testing. The permit will require the company to install “best available control technology” to help mitigate some of its emissions.
Though DEQ spokesman David Monro said whether Intel submits a PSD permit is still under discussion, he said it would likely take until 2015 for such a permit to be approved. Then, the company would also have to go back and get the more general air quality permit it was seeking last fall when the fluoride admission was made public.
Both would require “robust public comment periods,” Monro said.
“We’re not going to go silent until the required public notice,” he said. “We’re going to have some active response to the public.”
Meanwhile, Krallman said Neighbors for Clean Air’s negotiations with Intel are going well and that they expect an agreement soon if the current tenor holds. The group still contends that the company is illegally continuing construction on D1X.
Though the group’s goal is not to sue and potentially halt construction at the site, it’s also an option NCA might resort to if negotiations fall apart, Krallman said.