Foes plan to sue because of firm’s failure to report emissions
Intel officials are promising to improve communication with area residents as the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality works to resolve questions surrounding the company’s most recent air-quality permit application.
“Our goals are the same as those in the community. We all want more transparency, more visibility about what’s happening at Intel, and legal certainty over the permit process,” said Todd Brady, Intel’s global environmental director.
Intel needs the DEQ permit to discharge emissions generated during the manufacturing process into the atmosphere. The DEQ repeatedly has granted Intel the permits, which require the company to comply with state and federal emission limits. But this year’s application process was thrown into disarray when Intel officials realized they had not been reporting fluoride emissions, as required by state regulations.
“That was our mistake and we take responsibility for it,” Brady said.
Portland’s Neighbors for Clean Air and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center at Lewis & Clark Law School have filed notice they intend to sue Intel for violating the federal Clean Air Act within the next month or so.
According to Brady, Intel officials did not realize they needed to report fluoride emissions because the notification limit set by the DEQ is significantly lower than the limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other states. Brady says Intel’s fluoride emissions are still below allowable health limits, however, meaning Intel would have received the last permit if it had agreed to report them.
In response to the situation, Intel is reaching out to its critics, including Neighbors for Clean Air, and residents around its Washington County manufacturing plants, according to Jill Eiland, Intel’s Northwest Regional Corporate Affairs manager.
Mary Peveto, president and co-founder of Neighbors for Clean Air, confirms her organization is talking with Intel about its permit application.
“We’re having a good conversation and progress has been made, but we’re not prepared to say we won’t pursue the lawsuit yet,” Peveto said.
Intel also is planning to restart a citizens advisory committee that was disbanded years ago for lack of interest. The company now is considering candidates to represent neighbors, environmentalists, the business community and others on the committee. Eiland says it will begin meeting after the first of the year.
Intel also has started a new website with environmental information on Hillsboro operations, including its greenhouse gas emissions. It is at www.exploreintel.com/ronleracres.
It is unlikely Intel ever will be able to satisfy all of its critics, however. For example, Dale Feik, chairman of the Clean Air Committee of the Washington County Citizen Action Network, also known as WC CAN, thinks the DEQ has not caught permit violations at Intel’s Hillsboro plants in the past. He wants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take a more aggressive role in enforcing its regulations there.
“I would hope that EPA would also do an unannounced inspection of the Washington County Intel plants,” said Feik, who also serves on the board of WC CAN, a coalition of environmental, cultural and social justice advocacy organizations.
DEQ officials have not said when they will finish their review and announce the rest of the process for ruling on the permit application.