Intel’s recent announcement of a new $3.5 billion investment in its Rio Rancho plant is music to the ears of national, state and local politicians, as well as local business owners. However, this is of great concern to those of us who live near the plant, are worried about the health impacts of Intel’s emissions, and are compelled to breathe in this … cocktail every day. That is why we have begun a new grassroots organization, Clean Air For All Now (CAFANOW), to bring these concerns to the public’s attention, and to ask Intel and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to ensure that all possible efforts are undertaken to minimize these emissions in the future.
Anyone familiar with the relationship between residents living near the Intel plant and Intel New Mexico over the past 35-plus years understands how state and local government officials, and Intel representatives have consistently ignored valid concerns about the dangerous chemicals emitted by the plant. Residents living near the plant have continually suffered the serious health impacts of these emissions. The first 20 years of this history is recounted in a book, “Boiling Frogs: Intel vs. The Village,” written by Barbara Rockwell, published in 2005 and available from Amazon.
Between 2005 and 2015, the total population of the 14 census tracts that abut or are close to the Intel plant increased by nearly 20% to 73,329. Thus, these … emissions affect a substantial portion of the Bernalillo/Sandoval metro area population.
Intel’s new investment presents opportunities for discovery and innovation, including renewed efforts to minimize these emissions. Before Intel New Mexico completes the refitting of its plant, begins production of its new generation of microprocessors and increases its … emissions, CAFANOW requests two things:
• First, we ask Intel to use a small portion of its $3.5 billion investment to replace all its aging and outdated thermal oxidizers and acid gas scrubbers with the newest generation of equipment that will keep emissions levels to an absolute minimum. Of their 27 scrubbers, 23 are at least 16 years old and six were installed as far back as 1995. The six thermal oxidizers are from 10 to 13 years old.
• And, second, we ask NMED to issue an air emissions permit that (1) requires the replacement of this outdated equipment with the newest updated and most effective equipment, (2) adds frequent, independent monitoring of emissions, and (3) establishes realistic and reasonable maximum allowable levels of emissions, so the permit is actually enforceable. None of this exists in the current permit, and we have been told that Intel has no intention of including any of this in its new application.
We expect NMED to hold a hearing where these issues can be discussed publicly. But it will not schedule such a hearing unless we in the communities surrounding the Intel plant express our concern. One way to do this is to go to our website, cafanow.com, and sign our electronic petition. While there, check out other information, sign up to receive email updates, and leave your observations, experiences and opinions.