Bipartisan group of lawmakers introduce bill to speed up domestic chip manufacturing projects

Published: Jul. 14, 2023 at 5:30 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - A group of lawmakers in Washington are now pushing for a new bill that they say would ensure that federal environmental reviews for domestic microchip manufacturing projects are completed in a timely manner.

The bill is called the Building Chips in America Act and was introduced by Senators Todd Young (R-IN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and U.S. Representatives Jen Kiggans (R-VA), Scott Peters (D-CA), Brandon Williams (R-NY), and Colin Allred (D-TX).

Companies are investing billions in microchip manufacturing projects in the U.S. after the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act last year. As currently implemented, CHIPS and Science Act investment projects will be considered major federal actions and be subject to National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA review. Some lawmakers say the requirements threaten to delay semiconductor manufacturing projects that are under construction and could discourage future investment.

“We’re trying to ensure that environmental reviews aren’t holding up the production of these sorts of factories,” said Sen. Young.

The bill would:

-(1) establish that the Department of Commerce is the lead federal agency to carry out NEPA reviews for any CHIPS Act project that is deemed to be a major federal action.

-(2)Clarify that certain CHIPS Act projects are not major federal actions and therefore not subject to NEPA review including projects that have already received necessary federal and state permits and begun construction; expansion projects that do not more than double the size of the site; projects that are required to undergo a state-level environmental review, which is at least as stringent as NEPA; and projects where the federal assistance from the CHIPS Act does not account for more than 15% of the cost of the project.

-(3) Grant the Secretary of Commerce greater tools to more effectively and efficiently carry out federal reviews, including through partnering with state and local governments on completing environmental reviews.

-(4) Limit the timeline for court challenges.

“So this holds accountable our federal government, requiring them to conduct those checks more quickly and to be responsive of the, to the Secretary of Commerce who will have enhanced authorities should this legislation pass,” said Sen. Young.

The lawmakers behind the bill will maximize opportunity to bring microchip manufacturing back to the US while maintaining bedrock environmental projections.

Young says the manufacturing projects would given expedited review because of their importance.

“We just want no delays. We want to make sure this this construction happens as fast as possible for Intel and for the feeder companies in the supply chain and we just want to keep any bureaucratic obstacles out of the way,” said Sen. Brown.