Chronological History of Intel and Corrales Community


On March 5, 2004, this document was delivered to 60 individuals on this list and attached to this letter.

Chronology of Events
Corrales Residents for Clear Air and Water (CRCAW) and Intel, Rio Rancho

Early 1980s:  A new electronics company, Intel, moves their 25 employees into a small warehouse in Rio Rancho located on the escarpment above the Village of Corrales.

Late 1980s:  Intel’s footprint steadily grows with the addition of new buildings and increased production. Intel claims it is a ‘clean industry’ and “what you see coming out of the stacks is just steam.”  Residents occasionally notice chemical odors that are sometimes accompanied by physical symptoms.

December 1992:  Intel requests Permit 325-M-6 revision from State of NM Environment Department (NMED) to increase volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from 140 tons to 356 tons. This is the sixth modification to Intel’s air permit to increase emissions.  No public hearing is scheduled since NMED defined this as only a ‘revision’ and not a ‘modification’.

April 1993:  Intel announces that Rio Rancho was the ‘big winner’ in a competition for a $1.5 billion chip plant.  Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP) analyzes the deal and denounces it as huge giveaway.  In November of 1998, Time magazine cites Intel’s Rio Rancho facility as one the worst examples of corporate welfare. No Environmental Impact Study is ordered.

April 1993:  Intel makes application to the NM State Engineer to drill three high volume water wells that will pump approximately 1.5 billion gallons of water annually.

July 1993:  Corrales Residents for Clear Air and Water (CRCAW) forms to address air pollution and massive water pumping by Intel.  Many residents near the plant report health problems from breathing Intel’s VOC and acid fumes.

August 1993: US Geologic Survey publishes a report (dubbed the Oh Shit Report) that states the aquifer beneath Albuquerque is much smaller and of poorer quality than previously thought.  The report states that four times as much water is being pumped from the aquifer than is returned by natural recharge. Intel pushes ahead with its water application.

August 1993: Intel’s Industrial Revenue Bond for $2 billion, the largest in US history, is approved by the Sandoval County Commission. The bond issue is purchased by an Intel subsidiary, thus saving Intel approx. $480,000 in taxes. Although Sandoval County is the ‘landlord’ and could demand it, no environmental provisions are made despite pleas from CRCAW and SWOP.

August 1993:  Intel hires a PR firm, Hirst Co. to ‘handle’ CRCAW.

September 1993:  A public hearing is held by the State on Intel’s water well application.  Despite multiple protests, both formal and informal, by everyone ranging from municipalities to individuals well owners, Intel is later granted permission to drill and pump 4500 acre feet from three high-volume wells.

September 1993:  CRCAW presents Intel’s Rio Rancho Site Manager with a Good Neighbor Agreement.  Intel refuses to sign it even though every clause is taken almost directly from Intel’s own 1991 environmental policy statement endorsed by Gordon Moore, Intel’s Board Chairman.

October 1993:  Intel is fined $15,000 a day by NMED for violating its air permit for 43 of 47 weeks.  Intel protests the fine, but the State stands firm.  Residents continue to get headaches, skin rashes, burning eyes and throats, respiratory problems, and nausea. One resident reports losing consciousness and is taken to the emergency room.

October 1993:  Intel announces that it will spend $9 million for thermal oxidizers, (incinerators) to burn off VOC emissions.  CRCAW wants strict operational and emissions monitoring to protect public health.  Intel has always had acid scrubbers but CRCAW’s comfort level with the scrubbers evaporates when it learns later that the scrubbers have less than 50% efficiency.

October 1993:  CRCAW begins an 18-month attempt to revive the Sandoval County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).  The LEPC meets regularly but Intel committee members stonewall efforts to build an emergency plan.

October 1993:  Intel hires a Canadian PR firm, Pat Delbridge Associates, to put together a 19-member ‘Community Advisory Panel’ or CAP to act as an intermediary between Intel and the community.  Two CRCAW members are chosen for the CAP, and they accept.  CRCAW views the CAP as a co-option of its efforts.

November 1993:  Test wells are drilled around Corrales to determine the drawdown from Intel’s pumping.  The State Engineer determines that the drawdown caused by Intel’s pumping does not impair Corrales water rights if it is possible to drill deeper to restore the water supply. Opponents of this argument charge that the huge amount of water Intel proposes to remove from the aquifer will potentially increase the rate of vertical groundwater flow; as water is pumped from Intel’s deep wells, shallow water will migrate downward.  There is fear that septic system drainfields will be drawn down to pollute ground water.  Everyone in Corrales has a well and septic system.

November 1993:  CRCAW hosts a packed town meeting at the Old Church in Corrales. A series of speakers address a standing-room only crowd.  The crowd includes state and local politicians, two local TV stations and public radio.  After the speakers, a public forum is held in which many local residents speak passionately about their concerns over air and water issues. CRCAW asks participants to sign a petition and to contact elected and appointed officials to ask for a postponement on Intel’s January water application hearing so that all parties will have time to do the appropriate research. The Village of Corrales is the only formal protestor to the water application. CRCAW also asks the meeting attendees to contact NMED to demand continuous emissions monitoring on the stacks.

November 1993:  The Sandoval County Commission passes air and water resolutions asking the Governor, Bruce King, and two of his officials to require Intel to equip all plant manufacturing stacks with continuous monitoring devices and “appropriate apparatus to significantly eliminate toxics and noxious emissions.”  The water resolution requests the Governor and State Engineer to require Intel to drill and monitor test wells. Intel says it is “disappointed” with the resolutions.

December 1993:  The State Engineer extends the well-hearing date from January to April 1994.  He appoints a task force to review water rights policies, thus preempting Intel’s negotiations.

December 1993:  The NM Environment Department decides to require a modification rather than a revision to Intel’s air permit, thus triggering a formal public hearing. Intel opposes the ruling and threatens to postpone installation of the incinerators until December 1994 if a modification is required.  CRCAW regrets the delay but wants the public hearing held to make sure that some enforceable provisions will be written into the permit so that the community is not at the mercy of Intel’s corporate whims.

December 1993:  Intel installs the incinerators but cannot turn them on until the modification is approved after the public hearing in June 1994. A leaked memo reveals that Intel intends to run the incinerators only until they replace  particularly smelly chemical (EEP) in their process.

February 1994:  Intel signs a consent agreement with the State and pays $40,000 in fines resulting from the Notice of Violation it received in October.  The consent agreement does not require Intel to admit that it violated its permit but does require mass-balance accounting and a new algorithm to estimate compliance on an hourly basis.  The State had formerly accepted Intel’s mathematical formula based on wafer starts, with no verification.

February 1994:  Ribbon cutting ceremony for the two monitoring wells in Corrales.  Water levels in 15 other private wells in Corrales will also be monitored. Significant drawdown is not found over several months of the study.

March 1994:  The NM State epidemiologist attends a CRCAW meeting to hear complaints.  He tells CRCAW there is no money to fund a health survey and suggests that CRCAW conduct its own survey.  Intel brings in its own doctor from California who tells the State that health problems from Intel are impossible because the concentrations are ‘so low’.

March 1994: Sandia Pueblo takes a stand supporting the Corrales opposition to Intel’s wells.

March 1994:  Intel receives another Notice of Violation for installing larger boilers than allowed by its permit.  Intel pays a $35,000 fine.

March 1994:  Governor Bruce King holds a town meeting in Corrales and hears complaints from residents.  He tells residents, “It takes a lot of water to grow a ton of alfalfa,” I think maybe we’d rather have those good paying jobs at Intel.”

April/May 1994:  CRCAW holds fund raisers and receives a $5,000 grant from a private foundation to hire an attorney.

May 1994:  The federal EPA rules that Intel must meet a series of requirements to make sure that the 10 new boilers don’t increase carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. Headlines announce that “Intel Expansion Could be Delayed a Year.”  Intel has to prove to the EPA that its boilers will not emit over 100 tons per year of carbon monoxide in order to escape the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) review.  Intel CEO, Craig Barrett goes on record as saying that it is Intel’s “Noble goal to avoid paperwork and bureaucracy.” Delay in this fiercely competitive industry is disaster.

June 1994:  CRCAW’s attorney protests Intel’s revised application as a violation of due process, as well as air quality regulations, and asks for a delay in the public hearing.

June 1994:  The request for delay is overruled by NMED. An overflow crowd fills Rio Rancho’s City Hall to testify at the first public hearing ever held on Intel’s permit.  Since State regulations do not set standards of operations for the proposed incinerators, CRCAW proposes to the NMED a number of special conditions to ensure that the incinerators are operated in a safe and efficient manner.  The conditions include continuous operations, continuous monitoring, and exclusion of hazardous materials that cannot be handled safely by the incinerators.  The NMED proposes to Intel that it include these conditions in its permit, and Intel agrees. Although the incinerators will reduce emissions by approx. 90%, Intel announces that it will not accept a reduction in their permitted level of 356 tons of VOCs.

July 1994:  After a series of negotiations between Intel and CRCAW attorneys, a settlement agreement is signed in which Intel agrees to the cited operating conditions for its incinerators. CRCAW declares victory. The NM Environment Department announces that it is “proud to be a part of this: the first time that community interests, the state, and industry have worked together
to craft an air permit that mandates environmental protections above and beyond what is required by state and federal regulations.”

July 1994:  Intel is given permission by the State Engineer to begin drilling three high-volume wells.  Intel gets only 75% of what it requested (4500 acre feet) and must monitor local wells for three years, among other conditions.

August 1994:  Intel’s air permit 325-M-7 is approved by the NM Environment Dept.

August 1994: Intel holds a “Big Turn On” ceremony with CRCAW to begin operation of the incinerators.  CRCAW congratulates Intel for going ‘above and beyond’ the requirements of federal and state regulations.

September 1994: The first incinerator malfunction takes place, filling the neighborhood below Intel with noxious fumes.  This becomes a regular event, as Intel refuses to install backups.  Cutting-edge, world-class Intel runs into an unforeseen problem; silicon dioxide buildup that shuts the incinerators down.

January 1995: Intel’s $1.5 billion Fab 9 for production of the Pentium chip is under construction.  (The chip will have a mathematical defect.  Intel replaces the chip for large users but consumers have to fight for a replacement).  Fab 9 will have the length of two football fields and have six levels. During construction, there are two incidents involving gasses that send dozens to the hospital. Gary Johnson, who has just been elected Governor, is the contractor who becomes wealthy when his construction firm, Big J Enterprises, builds the huge Intel expansion.

January 1995: Gary Johnson takes office as Governor of New Mexico.  His first act in office is to replace the State Engineer and the Environment Secretary with pro-Intel appointees.

May 1995: Intel asks Sandoval County to approve an $8 billion industrial revenue bond. State lawmakers express concern about the $480 million in tax breaks from the bond compared to the $28.5 million that Intel pledges for a new high school in Rio Rancho.  They say they may decide to repeal the law next session to stop any similar, future tax breaks.

June 1995: CRCAW registers formal complaints with Intel and NMED about the continued malfunction of the incinerators and asks for backup incinerators. Federal and state laws do not require redundant systems. A miserable summer of headaches, respiratory problems and other physical symptoms ensues for residents.  This problem continues unabated to the present day.

August 1995: Sandoval County and Intel officials hold public hearings on a new $8 billion industrial revenue bond.  Two nights of hearings are scheduled to hear comments from a packed meeting room.  The Commission abruptly cancels the second night of hearings.

February 1995 : CRCAW lobbies the State Legislature to remove three words, “no stricter than” (the federal air regs) from the state’s Clean Air Act.  The bill (called the Turquoise Skies Campaign by CRCAW) gets out of committee, is passed in the House but fails in the Senate.

1995-1998:  Behind the scenes, Intel lobbies the NM Environment Department for a new permit modification that would grant Intel “minor-source” status with the elimination of all operating conditions agreed to in the settlement agreement between Intel and CRCAW.

September 1998:  An ‘informational meeting’ is held by Intel and NM Environment Dept. on the proposed draft of a new permit that classifies Intel as a ‘minor source.’  Intel states the change from major to minor is justified because the incinerators (in theory) reduce VOC emissions from 356 tons to less than 100 tons per year.  Intel boosters clash with CRCAW members in heated exchanges.  NMED wants Intel to agree to continuous emissions monitoring in the new permit but Intel refuses, citing no requirement is set out in air regulations.  CRCAW is outraged that Intel plans to blatantly break the legally binding settlement agreement.  NMED tells CRCAW that the settlement agreement is a ‘private agreement’ to which the State is not a party, and NMED cannot enforce any of the provisions even though the terms of the settlement agreement are written into the then-current permit.

October 1998 : Following the meeting Intel and NMED play ‘bait and switch’ with the permit.  The revised permit is even worse than the first draft proposed.

November 1999:  State air quality regulators cave in on every major disputed provision of Intel’s new air permit.  All previously required testing on emissions is deleted and Intel will average its toxic emissions over a year’s time rather than stay within hourly limits, allowing dangerous spikes to be released with impunity.  For example, the new pollution permit allows Intel to emit 5.9 tons of phosgene into the air over a residential neighborhood.  Phosgene, responsible for 80% of the poison-gas fatalities in WWI, has a pleasant smell like newly-mown hay, and is unlikely to be noticed in a farming community like Corrales.

January 2000:  A public hearing is held at which many CRCAW residents testify against the proposed permit.  The hearing officer ignores extensive objections from residents, saying he has no choice but to approve it in the absence of any opposing testimony.

March 2000: The NM Environment Department approves Intel’s air pollution permit, granting it minor-source status.  An NMED employee, off the record, reports that Governor Gary Johnson interfered, demanding that NMED give Intel, its “customer” the permit that it wanted.

April 2000: SWOP and CRCAW appeal the permit to the Environmental Improvement Board (EIB).  The EIB is a board appointed by Gov. Johnson. SWOP brings in a California-based air quality expert to testify that Intel can’t meet air standards under a minor source permit.

July 2000: The EIB hearing is held with CRCAW, SWOP and the Village of Corrales protesting the rolling annual average of emissions and the lack of continuous emissions monitoring. Four members of CRCAW, three of whom are professional scientists, meet all requirements to provide technical testimony; however, the EIB accepts a motion from Intel and NMED lawyers that they not be allowed to testify.  Following a vigorous protest, they are allowed to give their devastating testimony, but with the provision that their testimony will not be considered by the EIB in making their decision. Two days later, the EIB rules in favor of Intel.

October 2000: The EIB denies SWOP’s request for a new hearing, rejecting allegations that an EIB board member had a conflict of interest (Intel donated $2 million to an EIB member’s favorite charity just 13 days before the hearing).

November 2000:  The NM Environmental Law Center files an appeal to the EIB ruling.

January 2001: Intel neighbors are sickened by toxic Intel emissions at a rate not seen since 1993 before incinerators were installed.  Emissions are expected to increase by 55% following the startup of FAB 11X, Intel’s latest $2 billion, one million square foot expansion.

February 2001: A new, safe and clean process for making computer chips, developed by Los Alamos Laboratory, replaces most toxic chemicals with benign supercritical carbon dioxide (SCORR). Although computer chip makers: HP, IBM and GTE, supported this research, Intel is not among them and will not return calls to the developer of the process.

August 2001: Village Councilor, Larry Vigil, dies of fibrosis of the lungs. Before his death, he blamed chronic exposure to Intel’s emissions for his illness. Shortly thereafter, Sonja McCoy, who lived near the plant dies of this same rare disease. One of the causes of pulmonary fibrosis is fine particles of silica, of which Intel’s permit allows the release of up to 14.2 tons per year.

September 2001: Corrales formally requests monitoring by an Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrometer from the NM Environment Department.  SWOP conducts a ‘bucket brigade’ using low-tech but effective bucket sampling developed by Ed Masry, the lawyer who heads the law firm that employs Erin Brockovich.

February 2002: CRCAW sends out a health survey, vetted by a University of NM epidemiologist, to Corrales residents.  Approximately 600 people respond, reporting headaches, nausea, breathing difficulty, skin rashes, burning throats and eyes, etc. etc.

October 2002: Intel’s $2 billion FAB 11X starts production. A Corrales resident who wishes to remain anonymous, donates a majority of the $93,000 needed to purchase an FTIR for the community.  CRCAW, working jointly with SWOP, places the order for the FTIR.

December 2002  The EPA funds a 14-member Corrales Air Toxics Task Force for a $200,000, 14-month study.  CRCAW wants the sampling and monitoring effort to emphasize detection of short-duration, high-intensity emissions or ‘spikes’.  CRCAW takes exception to NMED’s flawed methodology.

March 2003: Two Intel whistle blowers come forward to tell of their attempts to get a faulty scrubber repaired and Intel management’s cover up with rigged monitoring, Intel management took this course, knowing that local residents would be subjected to unacceptable levels of acid pollution from the malfunctioning scrubber. Speaking out costs both Intel employees their jobs.

July -August 2003  CRCAW’s FTIR is up and running, gathering data 24x7. Both Intel and the NMED set up their own 30-day FTIR monitoring programs in August, coinciding with a production slowdown at Intel.  The CRCAW and NMED monitors find very little during August, although significantly higher pollution levels are measured after August. (Note: The two Intel whistle-blowers predicted that very little would be found during August because Intel was doing everything possible to minimize its emissions when it knew it would be monitored by NMED.)
          Phosgene, a highly toxic gas, is detected on a daily basis in high concentrations by three different FTIRs, run by three different companies, using three different software packages and operated by three different operators.  Nonetheless, one of the Task Force contractors, Arcadis, dismisses this as “false positive” along with nine other compounds. Intel denies that it emits phosgene (although it is permitted to release 5.9 tons per year); it can be formed from carbon tetrachloride which Intel uses in ton quantities.  The safe level set by EPA for phosgene is 0.05 ppb; concentrations found by the FTIRs are typically 3 to 11 ppb: 50 to 100 times the safe level.  Intel also emits large quantities of acetone and IPA (isopropyl alcohol) which are known to promote synergistic increases in toxicity.

January 2004      The managing permit engineer for the Intel permit retires from NMED and declares publicly at a news conference that the Intel permit is a ‘sham’ and the process that produced it a ‘farce’.  ‘Sham permit’ is a term used by the EPA to describe a permit that is impractical and unenforceable. He supplies the names of 16 other former NMED employees who share his concerns.

February 2004   Two of the 16 former NMED employees hold a press conference to confirm the former permit engineer’s statements.  Only two of the invited four newspapers send reporters to cover it. One of the employees, a former enforcement officer, describes Intel’s acid scrubbers as merely ‘decorative’ and stated that he wrote up a Notice of Violation that he was not allowed by NMED upper management to serve on Intel even after repeated requests to do so.  The retired former manager of the state’s enforcement section estimated that 80% of the Department staff would agree that the Intel permit is a sham.
February 2004   CRCAW uses Intel’s own FTIR data in a presentation demonstrating that hazardous chemicals were released in August (a low production month) that exceeded safe levels (TARA ESLs) by 20 to hundreds of times. CRCAW requests NMED to reopen Intel’s permit and rewrite it to include seven specific permit changes.
February 2004   CRCAW meets with NM Secretary of the Environment, Ron Curry and staff.  He is against reopening Intel’s air permit even though CRCAW demonstrates that all three conditions for reopening have been met.  Curry states: ”As we look at the data you presented, we will rely heavily on what comes back from our staff.  This is what we will present to the EIB.....take their good science and turn it into good policy that affects NM politics.”
April 2004  CRCAW and SWOP meet again with Curry to discuss the badly flawed Gradient risk assessment and the Koracin Dispersion Modeling Analysis which shows a correlation between plumes from Intel and incident reports from nearby residents.  In response, Curry defends a press release from the NMED that announced, “Air Study Appears to Clear Intel, Report: Firm’s Emissions Not Cause of Illnesses.” He refuses to send out a press release regarding the Koracin report.  He abruptly leaves the meeting.
April 2004  Two hours before State Toxicologist, Len Flowers, is to give her report on the Gradient report, Secretary Curry cancels the Corrales Air Quality Study Task Force meeting.  The Task Force will not meet again for six weeks.  The NMED project manager, who publicly stated: “This (Koracin report) provides very sound evidence that Intel could be culpable”  gets ‘reassigned.’
April 2004   CRCAW holds a press conference appealing directly to Governor Bill Richardson to reopen Intel’s minor source permit.  He does not respond to repeated appeals, and three months later, at a town hall meeting in Rio Rancho, proclaims that he is “Intel’s best friend and supporter.”
June 2004  The Task Force meets to hear the State Toxicologist report.  She states that “it is not possible to make definitive conclusions.”  Secretary Curry is present to tell the Task Force: “We believe there is no evidence linking Intel emissions to health effects in Corrales.”  He further stated that “We believe the biggest environmental problem facing Corrales is ground water poisoning from septic tanks.”  Secretary of Health, Patricia Montoya is present and concurs with Curry.  The Task Force reacts with shock and dismay.
August 2004   The Sandoval County Commission announces granting of a $16 billion Industrial Revenue Bond (IRB) to Intel.  The IRB is brokered by Commissioner Daymon Ely, who negotiated the deal for eight months behind closed doors while posing as advocate of Corrales people serving on the Task Force.  But apparently he was spying for Intel.  

With the previous IRBs of $10 Billion ($2 Billion in 1993 and $8 Billion in 1995) Intel built several wafer fabrication plants (fab) in Rio Rancho.  With this enormous corporate welfare Intel was supposed to bring good things to life of Sandoval County's people.  Instead, by means of these fabs Intel has been showering the neighboring communities with toxic chemicals, polluting the ground and water.  Now Intel is forcing this $16 Billion elephantine IRB upon people of Sandoval County and refuses to specify what this gigantic extortion is for.  There is no doubt that Intel's intention is to build a few more fabs.