The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newsmagazine Serving the Community since 1989

ECO-BEAT

Book Review
Boiling Frogs: Intel vs. The
Village, by Barbara Rockwell

—MARGO DEMELLO
The publication of Barbara Rockwell's new book, Boiling Frogs: Intel vs. The Village (iUniverse, Inc., 2005), is quite timely, given the continuous controversy over the historic $16 billion industrial revenue bond secretly negotiated for Intel by the Sandoval County Commission in 2004 (see “Tracking the Intel Bucks,” in last month's Signpost). This deal, which allowed Intel to expand their New Mexico operations without paying most taxes, is just the latest of a number of similar arrangements between the county and the chip manufacturer that have aroused public suspicion, and which Rockwell covers in her exhaustively researched book.

In particular, Rockwell, an accidental activist who co-founded Corrales Residents for Clean Air in 1993, after her husband began experiencing severe headaches that the couple attributed to Intel's emissions, focuses on the 1994 bond that resulted in the largest semiconductor plant expansion in history (with perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars in rebates to Intel and which gave Intel permission to increase their emissions from 140 to 356 tons per year), and CRCA's (later dubbed CRCAW, when they added water to their list of concerns) fight to force the plant to guarantee a higher level of control over their emissions. (This bond was quickly followed by another $8 billion bond in 1995, with another few hundred million dollars in tax breaks for the company.)

Boiling Frogs covers much more than just Sandoval County's largesse to Intel, the world's largest microchip producer, however. It is a thorough account of her group's eleven-year David vs. Goliath battle to make Intel accountable to the surrounding community and to ensure that Corrales residents and others who live downwind of the plant will not have to worry that their air or water is contaminated. Rockwell must have kept meticulous records (or else she has a superhuman memory), as the book includes a careful recounting of virtually every meeting she attended, every memo or press release that was written by all sides, and every conversation that occurred over this period.

She includes details on the surprisingly lax EPA standards governing hazardous chemicals (and the fact that those standards are aimed at healthy adults, not the elderly, the sick, or the young), the many times Intel received notices of violation from the New Mexico Environment Department (which Intel calls paperwork errors), the illnesses suffered by local residents, the unfortunate infighting between CRCA and the Southwest Organizing Project, an Albuquerque social-justice group also fighting Intel, and the many ways in which the state government appeared to work to protect Intel's interests, at the expense of its citizens.

But Rockwell also documents some of the group's victories, including generating public support for higher environmental standards; negotiating an agreement with Intel that forced the company to fully disclose all of their chemicals being used, to install three new incinerators in order to better control pollutants, and to limit the release of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide (an agreement that was excluded from the state's new permit regulating Intel); Sandoval County's requirement, as part of the $16 billion bond, that Intel pay for any environmental disasters or messes that the company may cause (at least two former Intel plants in California are now Superfund cleanup sites); helping to administer a health survey of local residents; creating a good-neighbor agreement (which Intel did not sign); and purchasing a Fourier-transform infrared spectrometer to monitor air pollution.

Rockwell's book should be required reading for residents of Corrales and Rio Rancho who are concerned about the quality of their air and water, as well as for folks interested in starting their own grassroots campaigns against other corporate giants. But it also should serve as a warning to those who do want to take on their own Goliath. Not only do groups like CRCA fight lopsided battles against highly funded corporate publicity machines like Intel, but New Mexico has a history of putting jobs (even when many of those jobs are filled by newcomers to the state) before human health and the environment, and even the state's environment department has not demonstrated that it can adequately regulate powerful companies like Intel. As Rockwell demonstrates, taking on a company in New Mexico that promises jobs and tax dollars, even when they bring pollution and waste, will never be an easy proposition.

[Editor’s note: Barbara Rockwell’s Web address, with a link to a blog about the book, is boilingfrogs-intelvsthevillage.com.]


Placitas Recycling Association looking for board members

Looking for an opportunity to make a difference in your community? Join the Placitas Recycling Association Board of Directors! Responsibilities include working at the Placitas Recycling Center four or five Saturdays during the year and attending quarterly board meetings. There are also opportunities to partici-pate in long-range planning and other operations. Interested? Want to learn more about it? Call Len or Fran Stephens at 867-3077 or John Richardson at 771-3383.


Las Placitas Association board members
The new board of Las Placitas Association poses at the Range Café. Left to right) Elaine Sullivan, secretary; Lolly Jones, treasurer; Judith Hendry, vice president; Jerry Miller, corresponding secretary; and Kate Nelson, president.

Las Placitas Association plans public lectures, hikes for 2006

—LAS PLACITAS ASSOCIATION MEMBERS
Las Placitas Association roared into 2006 with a new board (featuring old faces) and an exciting schedule of lectures and hikes.

We remain committed to our mission of preserving open space and hope to begin on-the-ground trail development on the 560-acre parcel this year. We'll also continue watershed-restoration work that could see a huge boost in activity this year. Stay tuned for a future announcement.

Our Web site has been updated and upgraded as well. Give it a look at www.lasplacitas.org. That's where you can find the latest information about activities, including the lecture-and-hiking series.

The new board is composed of president Kate Nelson, vice president Judith Hendry, treasurer Lolly Jones, secretary Elaine Sullivan, and corresponding secretary Jerry Miller. All are longtime board members familiar with the work—and the joy—that comes with keeping a small nonprofit thriving.

To further our desire to help every resident "learn to live like a local," here's our 2006 schedule of events. All are free and open to anyone with an interest in improving how they relate to our wonderful community:

• Heal Your Land—March 18, 9:00 a.m. to noon, Placitas Community Center: Grazing, construction, arid conditions, and other human activities can combine to degrade our soils almost beyond redemption—a process called "desertification." Are there places in your yard where almost no plants will grow? Learn what you can do to help heal the land with sensible plants. Joran Viers, Bernalillo County Extension Service horticulturalist, will speak.

• For the Birds—April 22, 8:25 a.m., Open Space East Access: A birding hike led by Hart Swartz, a leading New Mexico bird specialist. Wear sturdy shoes and bring water and a snack. No pets, please.

• Wildlife Trails—Date and place to be determined (check our Web site): From birds and reptiles to coyotes and bobcats, Placitas is a valuable link in regional wildlife migration routes. Join us for a morning with speakers from the Rewilding Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to learn about our role and how to be a good neighbor to wild communities.

• "Not for Sissies" Hike—May 6, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Tunnel Springs Trailhead: Local resident Ed Newville will take intrepid hikers to the lovely and historic Osha Spring. The roughly six-mile round trip starts at Tunnel Springs, cuts directly up the Ojo del Orno Route, and intersects with the Crest Trail after eight-tenths of a mile of steep climbing. We follow the Crest Trail to the Penasco Blanco Trial and then turn off to the Osha Spring Trail. Wildflowers (and wildlife viewing) could be great! Those wanting a shorter hike can turn back at any time. Bring water, food, and sturdy shoes for a great day in the Sandia Mountains.

• Life Lines—June 3, 9:00 a.m. to noon, Placitas Community Center: For generations, acequias and land grants have been the lifelines of our community. Former state historian and noted New Mexico author Robert Torres will discuss their lasting impact on Placitas.

• Conserving a Heritage—June 17, 9:00 a.m. to noon, Placitas Community Center: Even in our large state, land is a limited resource. Property owners can permanently preserve and protect their land now and for future generations. Local experts will introduce us to the advantages and disadvantages of conservation easements. Residents who have placed their land under such easements will tell their stories.

• The Scott Garden—July 15, 9:00 a.m. to noon, Chuck and Sarah Jane Scott property: A return visit to an old favorite from LPA's garden-tour days. The Scott garden, in the Tunnel Springs area, features a fascinating landscape of native plants, orchards, and pathways through the abutting forest. Part of the property is protected in perpetuity by a conservation easement held by LPA. Look for directions on our Web site and in the July Signpost.

• A Hidden Jewel—August 12, 9:00 a.m. to noon, Diamond Tail Ranch: We'll carpool to Gonzales Canyon, one of the most interesting and dramatic areas on the old ranch. We'll see remnants of old mining activities and structures—and maybe even a ghost!

• All-Hands Cleanup—September 9, 8:30 a.m. to noon, Placitas Community Center: We'll gather at the community center, then carpool to Las Huertas Canyon for a post-Labor Day clean-up. Wear sturdy shoes and bring water and a snack.

• The Stars of Placitas—October 14, sundown to 10:00 p.m., Homesteads Village: Join members of the Albuquerque Astronomical Society to learn the constellations, stars, and planets in our night sky. Telescopes will be provided.

• Tales of Old Placitas—Date and time to be determined (check our Web site), Presbyterian Church: Hear some of our longest residents talk about the Placitas they once knew. Tales of orchards, matriarchs, and maybe even the fabled Thunderbird Lounge. Refreshments will be served.

 

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