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Citizens press DEQ on air permit application

Many questions remain to be answered to satisfy the public’s concern over Intel Corporation’s air emissions at its Aloha and Ronler Acres chip manufacturing facilities.

That much was clear Feb. 19 during a meeting at the Hillsboro Civic Center, when citizens got a first look at an air emissions permit application submitted by Intel to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Intel has applied for a Type 4 Air Contaminant Discharge permit (ACDP), as required by a Mutual Agreement and Order (MAO) signed in April 2014 between DEQ and Intel.

Intel is proposing to double — or in some cases more than double — its maximum allowable emissions of some air pollutants.

Carbon monoxide emissions are limited to 99 tons per year under the current permit. Intel proposes to increase that limit to 228 tons per year. Also in the new permit, Intel is proposing to increase nitrous oxide limits from 43 tons per year to a maximum of 197; and volatile organic compound limits would go from 99 to 178 tons per year.

Intel senior environmental engineer Stephanie Shanley explained that the permit envisions growth and an increase in manufacturing five to seven years into the future. It also includes the company’s new D1X manufacturing facility at Ronler Acres.

The meeting drew a crowd of about 40 people and audience questions began shortly after the presentation by DEQ’s

David Monro, Air Quality Manager for the Northwest region and DEQ permit writer George Davis.

Several very vocal citizens expressed a clear distrust of the process and DEQ’s ability to properly monitor Intel’s air pollutant discharges.

“I don’t think you have the money or the resources to stand up to this company that throws around money by the thousands,” said Miki Barnes, president of Banks-based Oregon Aviation Watch, a watchdog group that keeps tabs on operations at the Hillsboro Airport.

“Other companies are putting pollutants into the air and they are increasing their output over the years too,” one man commented. “You can see why we lose sleep. Give us some kind of program of how they (Intel) are going to decrease their emissions.”

Davis assured the public that provisions will be included in the permit requiring Intel to continuously operate its scrubbers and other technology to clean air emissions before discharge.

As a part of the 2014 MAO, Intel must release its air emissions test data quarterly to the public at exploreintel.com.

Intel currently operates under a Type 2 permit issued by DEQ in 2007. A Type 4 permit is more stringent and includes limits on emissions like greenhouse gases, fluoride and small particulate matter (PM2.5).

Intel is proposing a maximum of 819,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year. “Typically, a facility’s actual emissions are less than maximum limits established in a permit; however, actual emissions can increase up to the permitted limit,” according to a DEQ document.

Of particular concern to several citizens at the meeting was the amount of small particulate matter discharge in Intel’s permit proposal.

City of Hillsboro officials last fall warned citizens of the dangers of small particulate matter and asked citizens to voluntarily refrain from burning wood in appliances that lack pollution control equipment on bad air quality days — those happen primarily in the winter months.

Sharon Cornish, who lives on Evergreen Road, said she’s unhappy that the city puts pressure on citizens to not burn in their wood stoves, while large manufacturing companies emit much larger amounts of PM2.5.

“There’s no monitoring for us. We’ve been shut down on fireplaces,” she said, adding that many residents depend on wood burning appliances for heat in the winter.

Barnes agreed. “Quite frankly I find it an environmental justice issue to lay the blame on low- and medium-income residents,” she said.

Small particulate matter levels in Hillsboro are of concern to the DEQ, Monro said. “It’s something we’re watching very closely,” he added.

Davis said a draft permit should be ready for public review sometime this summer or early fall. Once the permit has been drafted, it will be put on public notice for 40 days. Written comments will be accepted during that period. There will also be a public hearing where verbal and written comments can be submitted

Once DEQ issues the Type 4 permit, it will then begin processing a Title V — or air quality — operating permit for the company, Davis said.

Find more information about the proposed permit at oregon.gov/deq/NWR/Pages/IntelCorporation.aspx.

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