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Crunch time for chipmakers

Semiconductor chips on a circuit board.

Semiconductor chips on a circuit board.

Florence Lo/Illustration/Reuters

The Biden administration wants to supercharge US chip manufacturing, which is why the 2022 CHIPS Act allotted $280 billion for the domestic chipmaking sector. But Republicans in Congress just halted a key provision of the administration’s plan.

Under the latest iteration of the National Defense Authorization Act, Republicans blocked a line item that would have allowed semiconductor companies building new plants to bypass the typical environmental permitting process. It’s something that Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo had pushed for as a means of streamlining and speeding up the process. “We are not in any way suggesting that we should do anything that hurts the environment,” she insisted in Senate testimony. Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Mark Kelly championed it in the Senate, and more than 100 lawmakers signed a letter advocating for it to be included in the final version of the bill.

But House Republicans, who largely oppose the permitting process in general, weren’t so concerned over whether the plants would uproot some Gila monsters. Rather, they say they are dismayed over what they called a permitting “carve-out” for the chip industry.

This exclusion could mean a major slowdown for domestic and foreign chipmakers looking to pour money into US building projects, namely Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Intel, and Samsung, which are building new plants in Arizona, Ohio, and Texas respectively.


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