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How the next generation of semiconductor factories kicked up a fight over environmental review

US President Joe Biden arrives for a ceremony at the groundbreaking of the new Intel semiconductor manufacturing facility near New Albany, Ohio, on Friday, September 9th, 2022.  | Image: Gaelen Morse / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Lawmakers’ push to revive US chip manufacturing has triggered new concerns about pollution regulation, inadvertently subjecting semiconductor factories to federal environmental review for the first time. But while a bipartisan bill would exempt the factories to support a still-struggling American industry, some environmental advocates worry it could weaken the nation’s bedrock environmental law.

Since the 1990s, semiconductor manufacturing has shifted from the US to Asia. Around that time, it was becoming cheaper to build fabs and hire workers in Asia. Studies into hazardous chemicals at fabs and lawsuits over worker exposure to them in the US were also emerging.

Now, a global chip shortage — and a desire to counter China’s manufacturing…

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