By Don Hughes, Conservation Chair, CNNY Group
As a result of the passage of the federal CHIPS (Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors) and Science Act signed into law by President Biden on August 9, 2022, numerous microchip and semiconductor facilities entered the planning stages in states across the country, including New York. One of these facilities — Micron Technology — slated for Onondaga County, has come to the attention of the Central Northern Group and raised some environmental concerns. What follows is a “teaser” for a far more comprehensive article in the winter issue of the Sierra Atlantic.
In early 2020, just before the Covid pandemic hit, newly elected Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon was trying to woo high-tech industries to move into a vacant business park in the northern suburbs of Syracuse. Two-and-a-half years later he hit the jackpot. In October 2022, Micron Technology announced plans to spend up to $100 billion to build a massive complex of computer chip plants at said park. Micron’s new facility—a “fab” in industry lingo — would be the largest yet of its eleven manufacturing facilities spread across 17 countries. Much of the impetus for this and other semiconductor fabrication facilities in the U.S. is the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act. which provides $52 billion in grants and loans to rebuild a domestic semiconductor industry. Even so, it would be the largest private investment ever made in New York state history.
While the new facility promises 9,000 new direct jobs, thousands more related jobs, and many economic benefits, it comes with numerous risks to both workers and the environment. So much so, that the Sierra Club, together with Communication Workers of America and 50 other organizations wrote a letter to the CEOs of all of the major semi-conductor beneficiaries of the CHIPS Act. They wrote: “Our concerns stem from the semiconductor industry’s well-documented history, starting in Silicon Valley and expanding globally, of polluting the environment, harming workers and their offspring as well as community residents, busting unions, avoiding taxes, and burdening host communities with significant problems.” They asked the industry to set a higher standard as it proceeds.