Oregon Governor Seeks Funding To Expedite Environmental Review For New Oregon Chip Factories

Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon wants funding from the Emergency Board of the Legislature to quicken environmental reviews for the semiconductor sector.

The proposal resulted from the suggestions made earlier this month by a task force of Oregon business and government officials focused on the chip industry on how to make the state more appealing to the semiconductor industry.

The task force’s environmental and regulatory subcommittee, which the governor presided over, issued a warning that Oregon’s regulatory uncertainty is deterring technology industries who want to quickly identify a site and begin construction once they decide to expand.

The task committee came to the conclusion that “Oregon’s current regulations and regulatory environment reduce Oregon’s competitiveness and need change.”

To recruit four specialists for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the governor is requesting $357,000. Between parliamentary sessions, the emergency board approves any funding need. Depending on the job, Brown’s request would only cover the costs of each post for a period of six to nine months, necessitating long-term support from the Legislature in the next session in order to keep the new employees.

Richard Whitman, the agency’s director, submitted a letter to the Emergency Board last week requesting funding for the new positions, explaining that they are required “to respond to emerging needs and opportunities related to industrial expansions, including expansion of the semiconductor industry in Oregon.”

One of Oregon’s greatest sectors, the manufacture of electronic products accounts for around half of the state’s exports. One of the country’s highest densities of chip producers is in the Portland region. The sector is anchored by Intel, the biggest employer in the state, which employs about 22,000 people in Washington County.

The construction of new factories around the nation is booming, with Intel and other major manufacturers investing tens of billions of dollars each. The $280 billion CHIPS Act, which was enacted by Congress this summer, uses federal funding to support this expansion by funding new factories and research.

The task group revealed this month that Oregon is in talks with three unnamed corporations on projects costing a combined $8 billion, which might result in 10,000 new employment. However, no chip manufacturer has declared plans to invest any of that money in new factories in Oregon.

The governor might be trying to entice one or more of those companies by asking for the money now rather than waiting for the next legislative session.

Oregon Governor Seeks Funding To Expedite Environmental Review For New Oregon Chip Factories
Oregon Governor Seeks Funding To Expedite Environmental Review For New Oregon Chip Factories

Charles Boyle, a spokesman for Brown, stated in an email on Monday that “Oregon is in a competition with all other states for CHIPS funds; filling these positions at DEQ as soon as feasible will help to ensure Oregon is ready to move fast to maximize on the opportunities available to us.”

Other challenges raised by the task force, including a labor shortage, ineffective governmental incentives, and a lack of sizable industrial property parcels in the Portland area, are not addressed by the governor’s proposal.

The governor’s request for additional staffing as well as other financing ideas will be discussed during the Emergency Board’s three-day meeting starting on September 21.

Neighbors for Clean Air executive director Mary Peveto said she is in favor of giving the state’s environmental watchdog more funding. She argued, however, that the new employees should be introduced alongside a stronger regulatory framework rather than as a means of courting the industry.

To preserve one or two brand-new firms, Peveto added, “I don’t think we should be doing it through an emergency request.” “I believe that it ought to be standard practice to safeguard every Oregonian,” the speaker said.

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