Thursday, May 05, 2011
Intel's Air Permit Updated
By Rosalie Rayburn
Journal Staff Writer
The state's decision to update Intel's air quality permit will bring in jobs while protecting the environment, Gov. Susana Martinez and Rio Rancho's mayor say.
The permit revision approved Wednesday by the state Environment Department allows Intel to install additional pollution control equipment, which would position the plant for expansion to manufacture new technology if the company picks New Mexico as the site for future investment.
Critics claim the new administration is carrying on a tradition of sacrificing citizen concerns to bring in business.
Martinez took partial credit for speeding the permit process. In an emailed statement, the governor said she worked with state officials on the permit process.
"We have worked swiftly and efficiently to grant this permit to Intel, our state's largest manufacturer, to allow the company to further invest in their facility and in New Mexico," Martinez said in the email.
Rio Rancho Mayor Thomas Swisstack believes the permit approval could signal more jobs locally. Intel now employs about 3,300 people in Rio Rancho.
Intel has no immediate plans to expand in Rio Rancho, but Jami Grindatto, corporate affairs director for Intel in the Southwest, has said having the permit is essential to be in the running for investment.
"We appreciate Governor Martinez's administration for their efforts to improve the efficiency of the state's regulatory process while protecting New Mexico's environment," Intel's New Mexico site manager Ann Kelleher said in an emailed statement.
But not everyone was so upbeat.
"This is a political move — it has nothing to do with reality, with health or air quality," said Lynne Kinis, a Corrales resident who launched a petition asking the Environment Department to deny the permit revision.
Revisions of Intel's permits governing emissions have been issued multiple times since the plant opened in 1981. Intel has said it plans to install several thermal oxidizers, ammonia treatment systems and a bulk solvent waste treatment system.
Intel submitted its permit request to the state Environment Department in February. Several business organizations, including the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, launched petitions in support of the request.
"This (the permit approval) sends a message that New Mexico should be watched because of how quickly the state acted on this," said Gary Tonjes, president of Albuquerque Economic Development Corp.