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DEQ issues long-awaited Intel air quality permit

Locals dismayed process did not take public testimony into account


The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued Intel Corporation its air quality permit on Jan. 22 with no modifications.

The permit allows the semiconductor manufacturing company to emit up to double, and in some cases triple, the maximum emission limits of nine air pollutants of its previous permit.

Under the permit, Intel will be allowed to emit up to 229 tons per year of carbon monoxide, 197 tons per year of nitrogen oxide and 178 ton per year of volatile organic compounds, in addition to other major air pollutants at its two manufacturing facilities — Ronler Acres in Hillsboro and the Aloha fabrication plant at Southwest 198th and Tualatin Valley Highway.

Air pollutants are known to cause adverse health effects on humans, including heart and lung problems, asthma and respiratory effects — especially in vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“We reviewed the comments received (from the public),” said DEQ permit writer George Davis. “We did not make any changes to the permit application.”

The air quality permit comes after a mutual agreement and order between DEQ and Intel signed in April 2014, when Intel was fined $143,000 for failure to report fluoride emissions for years.

In a separate settlement with Neighbors for Clean Air and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Intel signed a Good Neighbor Agreement in December 2015 in which it pledged to work to “improve livability and safety in Hillsboro and Washington County.”

In that agreement, Intel commits to publicly posting quarterly air quality and emissions reports from regular smokestack testing, as well as working to reduce hazardous air emissions. Reports are available at Exploreintel.com.

The air quality permit — officially known as an air contaminant discharge permit, issued without modification — disappointed several western Washington County residents.

Dale Feik, who has followed the permitting process and provided testimony at several DEQ hearings, said “Intel will be allowed to emit tons of very toxic substances and will be able to say that they are following state and federal regulations.

“Because Intel convinced DEQ that they are not a ‘major source’ of pollution based upon federal EPA guidelines, Intel is not required to meet stricter emission control standards.”

Similarly, Miki Barnes of Oregon Aviation Watch, expressed dismay with DEQ’s permitting process, indicating she was frustrated by “the laxity displayed by this agency in addressing environmental concerns. I don’t believe that DEQ is being responsible or forthcoming about the cumulative impact from multiple Washington County sources about various chemicals emitted into the air, water and soil.”

The next step for Intel is to obtain a Title V permit, which according to according to Davis is “not really very different from the permit we just issued.”

The Title V permit is required by the federal Clean Air Act and allows “citizen enforcement,” Davis said. If Intel were to violate the conditions of the permit, Title V allows citizens to file a lawsuit, he added.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency website, Title V permits are “legally enforceable documents designed to improve compliance by clarifying what facilities (sources) must do to control air pollution.”

Title V is required for companies that surpass “major thresholds for hazardous air pollutants” — 10 tons per year for a single hazardous air pollutant or 25 tons per year for any combination of hazardous air pollutants. There are about 120 Title V permit holders in Oregon.

The permit will be issued by DEQ. Davis could not say when that permit would be issued, but said it will “probably happen this year.” Once the application is finalized, he said, public notices will go out and DEQ will accept public input on the permit.