Town officials won’t insist on setting their own environmental protection rules for the proposed Advanced Micro Devices computer chip plant, the Town Board decided Thursday.
The board has agreed to be satisfied with revised zoning language sought by AMD lessening the town’s role, but stating that the factory will “comply with all state and federal regulations.”
Computer chip factories use millions of gallons of water and numerous chemicals, so AMD’s plant will need to comply with a number of rules set by state and federal environmental regulators.
“That’s what they’re there for,” said Councilwoman Sue Nolen.
AMD is considering whether to go forward with plans for a $3.2 billion factory that would employ about 1,465 people, and the town is currently considering zoning changes it has requested.
AMD objects to part of the zoning law for the Luther Forest Technology Campus requiring the chip factory to have continuously updated “state of the art” pollution control technology. The term is vague, the company argues.
The Town Board was split, but at least three members agreed the AMD argument was valid.
“We’re not the experts. We’re just placing more burden on industry,” Nolen said.
AMD will need an air-emission permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and a discharge permit from the Saratoga County sewer district.
It will also need to register and file reports on hazardous materials with the DEC and federal Environmental Protection Agency, and the town will receive copies of those reports.
AMD has no objection to the town mandating compliance with chemical storage and handling practices established by the Industrial Standards Organization, which are widely used but would otherwise be voluntary.
“AMD complies with ISO standards anyway, as a good practice,” said John Munsey, a scientist with C.T. Male Associates, one of AMD’s consultants.
Town Supervisor Paul Sausville was in the minority. He said the town needs a strong role in ensuring compliance with government regulations.
That’s what was envisioned when the Luther Forest zoning was being written in 2004, he said.
“It’s not a higher standard, it’s reinforcement of those [federal and state] standards at the local level,” Sausville said. “We can say [they must] comply with state and federal regulations, but I don’t think that provides the reassurance we’re looking for for our residents.”
However, the town’s technical consultants, The Chazen Group, agree with AMD that terms in the current law like “state of the art” and “industry standard” are difficult to define.
Stuart Messinger of The Chazen Group also said local communities don’t generally get involved in environmental regulation.
Meeting with the town’s technical task force Thursday, board members also reached consensus that the town needs some sort of environmental compliance report annually that can be made available to the public. They are going to wait for AMD to provide specific suggestions before discussing it further.
AMD says it has a comprehensive audit of each plant’s environmental compliance done by an outside expert every three years, but regards the result as a confidential internal document.
A public hearing on the environmental impact of the zoning changes will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Town Hall.
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