Micron New York mega fab faces an environmental exam

At least the US Army is thinking about the frogs in those 226 acres of wetland

Micron's proposed "mega fab" semiconductor plant in New York State is to be scrutinized by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), which is tasked with preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the project.

The memory chipmaker said in 2022 that it would invest $100 billion over a 20-year period on a fabrication plant to be sited near the town of Clay in Onondaga County, representing the largest chipmaking facility in the history of the US.

Now the US Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District, has received an application for a Department of the Army (DA) permit from Micron to construct its facility for manufacturing DRAM chips as the agency has determined that the proposed project may affect the local environment.

In addition, Micron has applied to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for funding assistance for this project as part of Washington's CHIPS and Science Act program, and this requires an environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

In response, the agency is to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) that will assess the potential consequences of the campus. This will include possible impact to land use, geology, soils or water resources, plus any waste or hazardous materials that may be generated, health and safety implications, noise, and greenhouse gas emissions.

The USACE statement reveals that Micron intends to start construction of the campus in 2025, with two fabrication plants (Fabs 1 and 2) becoming operational by 2029. A further two plants (Fabs 3 and 4) are scheduled to be operational by 2041.

To prepare the site, Micron is proposing to fill in approximately 226 acres (about 915,000 square meters) of federally regulated wetlands on the proposed campus site, plus more land on a rail spur property west of the campus, and federally regulated streams and ditches.

To offset this, the chipmaker says it would develop a compensatory wetland mitigation plan to offset those being permanently lost from the site.

The EIS will encompass a range of potential options, including taking no action, proposing alternative sites for the project, and recommending changes to the design of Micron's facilities, the agency says [PDF].

Comments regarding the Micron project and the EIS can be submitted in writing or via email to celrb-micron.public.comments@usace.army.mil.

Both Micron and USACE were asked to comment for this article, but neither had responded at the time of publication.

The announcement follows a report last week highlighting the growing water consumption of the semiconductor industry, which globally consumes as much water as Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million people.

That report from market intelligence outfit S&P Global primarily pointed up the credit risks for chipmakers as a result of increasing stress on water supplies. It forecast that demand for water from chipmaker TSMC at its Taiwan factories could double from its 2022 level by 2030.

A report by Spectrum News soon after the Micron plant was announced indicated that it could use about 20 million gallons of water a day, and half of this would be supplied by the Onondaga County Water Authority with water drawn from Lake Ontario.

The remainder is expected to come from Onondaga County Water Environment Protection in the form of treated wastewater from the plant which will be sold back to Micron. ®

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