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Federal legislation could speed up semiconductor industry in Williamson County

Kailey Hunt
KUT News
Sen. Ted Cruz discusses legislation to streamline environmental review requirements for semiconductor manufacturing facilities, at a news conference in Round Rock on Thursday.

Sen. Ted Cruz has co-sponsored legislation that aims to accelerate the construction of semiconductor manufacturing facilities, like the plant Samsung is currently building in Taylor.

The legislation, which was passed by the Senate unanimously last month, aims to streamline some of the federal environmental review requirements for semiconductor manufacturing facilities. It now moves on to the House of Representatives.

"It’s important to have vigorous environmental protections, but not have regulations in place that just slow everything down for years and year and years," Cruz said at a press conference in Round Rock on Thursday. "That puts us at an economic disadvantage to other countries that are beating us right now in semiconductors. And we’ve got to move more quickly than that."

Semiconductors — also known as microchips — are a key part of nearly all modern electronic devices. Samsung said its facility in Taylor will "boost the production of semiconductor solutions that will power next-generation technologies in areas like 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC)."

Over the past three years, Texas has received over $61 billion in private investments for semiconductor manufacturing. Included in that number, is the $17 billion Samsung has invested into the Taylor facility.

The investment also spurred Williamson County to sign its first-ever international economic mutual cooperation agreement with South Korea's trade agency in an effort to bring manufacturing suppliers to the area.

"The reality is we’re building the largest ecosystem in North America for semiconductor manufacturing right here," Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said Thursday.

Cruz called Williamson County a "destination for the semiconductor industry and high tech." He said the U.S. has become too dependent on foreign manufacturing in recent years.

"It is elaborate NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] review that has become burdensome, and it delays the construction of a lot of new manufacturing," Cruz said."But with other manufacturing issues there's not there's not the urgency of time. There's not the vulnerability we have from a national security matter, from an economic matter that we have with semiconductors."

In 2022, Cruz voted against the CHIPS and Science Act, which provides federal tax dollars to private companies to build semiconductor manufacturing facilities in the U.S.

Despite not supporting the legislation, Cruz said he now has a "responsibility, an oversight responsibility, to make sure we can do everything possible to prevent the cronyism and the political patronage that often accompanies programs like that."

Kailey Hunt is KUT's Williamson County reporter. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @KaileyEHunt.
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