Speaker after speaker came to the microphone at the Hillsboro Civic Center Monday evening to offer testimony about emissions from Intel’s semi-conductor manufacturing plants in Hillsboro and Aloha.

The event, sponsored by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), was a formal public hearing to allow citizens to comment on Intel’s proposed new “Title V air quality permit.”

With its local operations expanding, Intel is seeking regulatory authority to “establish new plant site emission limits” for fluorides and greenhouse gases, and proposes to increase emission limits for volatile organic HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - Jill Eiland, Intels corporate affairs manager for Oregon, told the crowd at the Hillsboro Civic Center Monday the company would be responsive in complying with all applicable laws and regulations.

At Monday’s hearing, which stretched well over two hours, 18 citizens offered testimony, virtually all of them speaking in opposition to Intel’s request.

The hearing opened with a statement from Jill Eiland, corporate affairs manager for Intel in Oregon. Eiland said the company values its partnership with Hillsboro and Washington County, and pledged that Intel would be responsive in complying with regulations.

“Intel is committed to meet or exceed all applicable regulatory requirements,” Eiland said. “We currently have a significant inventory of emission control equipment and will add more with the Oregon site expansion. Even as Intel operations expand, forecasted emissions will remain in compliance with permit limits.”

However, most of the approximately 50 citizens who attended were highly skeptical of Intel’s promises and called on DEQ to ramp up monitoring of what is being released.

Robert Bailey of Helvetia said prevailing winds disperse emissions from Intel’s facilities around the county.

“This is not a Hillsboro issue,” he said. “It affects a broad population of Washington County. I am asking DEQ to reboot the process. A lot more people deserve to know about this, and we deserve a process to guarantee our health and safety.

“If DEQ can’t safeguard the public, we need an outside agency to do so.”

John Williams, who lives in Rock Creek, said Intel uses hydrofluoric acid in some of its operations.

“That is one of the worst compounds, and Intel could be permitted to release 3,600 pounds of acid in a year,” Williams charged.

Williams wants DEQ to establish short-term limits on Intel’s emissions. He pointed out, and DEQ representatives confirmed, that Intel’s permit provides for maximum releases over a one-year period, but there is no short-term limit on what is released into the air.

“Intel could release its one-year quota in an hour and still be in compliance with the permit — but it would kill everyone in Orenco Station,” Williams claimed.

Responding to a citizen’s question during the meeting, George Davis, DEQ permit writer, said the agency could not deny Intel’s air permit outright.

“We cannot deny permits. We can change them based on public comments,” he replied.

Russ Dondero of Forest Grove blasted DEQ for being in the dark about what Intel was emitting.

“DEQ has no independent basis for Intel’s permit. DEQ is totally reliant on Intel’s self-assessment. That is unacceptable on any level,” Dondero said. “What is the moral difference between Assad gassing people in Syria, and Intel gassing residents of Washington County? Well, you can say we don’t know Intel is doing that — and we will never know by the standards of DEQ.”

Hillsboro resident Dirk Knudsen called on DEQ to ensure there is stepped-up monitoring at Intel facilities.

“Intel should be required to install continuous monitoring systems, and DEQ must take enforcement action if limits are exceeded. These are deadly and toxic chemicals,” Knudsen said.

Deanna Palm, president of the Hillsboro Area Chamber of Commerce, was the only speaker from the crowd who offered support for Intel.

“Intel has a long history as a good corporate partner. The company consistently exceeds expectations,” said Palm.

Linda Peters, former chairwoman of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, said she initially supported Intel when it came to the area in the mid-1990s, but in recent years she has lost faith in the corporation.

“Their neighborliness is very much in question,” Peters said. “What I see from Intel now worries me very much indeed. By any common-sense description, Intel is a major polluter and their figures are extremely suspicious, because they fit just under certain thresholds to avoid more restrictions.”

Peters said there were some basic requirements she wanted Intel to follow.

“There is no provision for continuous measurement of stack emissions and no attention to downwind management,” she said. “There is no system for warning neighbors in case of a spike in hazardous emissions.”

Dale Feik, who lives in Forest Grove, said Intel should take some of its $2 billion in profits and “be a good neighbor.”

“Spend some money and get monitoring in there,” he said. “Having a 12-month rolling average is ridiculous.”

After the meeting, Peters said she was perplexed by what she saw as Intel’s lack of cooperation.

“I keep thinking it should be possible to work with Intel to achieve realistic ways of monitoring what comes out of Intel’s smokestacks and where it goes and how much of a threat that really is,” Peters said. “It’s hard to understand why Intel is so resistant to that type of request on the part of the public.”

She added that she hopes DEQ will step up its efforts.

“It’s important to partner effectively with Intel — and they’ll partner more effectively if there is a hammer. DEQ needs to pull itself together and figure a way to address our concerns, and not just Intel’s concerns,” Peters said.

Intel representatives did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

The DEQ will accept public comments on Intel’s air permit application through Sept. 25.

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