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