Geothermal update 8/16/15
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Action alert!!

Puna Pono Alliance needs community support and testimony at the Hawaii County Council committee hearing on Bill 77 Tuesday 8/18/15 at 1:00pm and resolution 249-15 Wednesday 8/19/15 at 9:00am ...

Please submit testimony and help us get this call out to your friends and families

It has been a long while since I have sent out an update.

FYI, PPA is still very active and has been busy at the PUC, with the night drilling ban lawsuit and working on trying to get the two health studies authorized by the planning commission and then hijacked by the planning department and the Kenoi administration finally underway.

Please help us get the word out on these council hearings ASAP.

We ask you to join PPA in our fight to protect Puna and the Kona community at Hualalai from these inappropriate, dirty, dangerous, and noisy geothermal industrial developments in our residential communities by testifying at theses hearings.

This Tuesday at 1:00pm the Hawaii County Council will hear bill 77

Bill 77 would take the money we fought for to help relocate people impacted by geothermal and instead use it for typical political purposes at the impacted residents expense. IMO this is another shameless attempt to take the few crumbs given to the community forced to live with these toxic power plants for political gain by Council member Illigan.

Here is a breakdown of what council member Illigan is trying to do.

Bill 77 and Resolution 249-15
    From PPA's perspective, the problem with Bill 77 is that it further dilutes the fund, the primary purpose of which is (or should be) the relocation of residents adversely impacted by proximity to PGV. What Bill 77 does is add "staff expenses related to the program, including salaries for staff or contractors, and related fringe benefits." Thus, the funds could be used to pay anyone for any "public purpose" expenditure in Lower Puna. Unfortunately, this has turned this into a political "slush fund,"  particularly after the Planning Director suspended its use for its initial intended purpose. Instead please tell the council to restore the geothermal relocation fund to its original purpose of helping the people forced to live with these dangerous industrial developments.
  • In January 2015, the Planning Department suspended purchase of homes using funds from the geothermal relocation and community benefits fund.
  • The reason for suspension of the program was uncertainty about lava flow then in progress.  Some scenarios would have prevented operation of PGV and would have resulted in no further geothermal royalties.
  • The county bought five homes late last year, the first purchases since the program was flooded with applications in 2012.
  • The Geothermal Royalty Fund had $2.7 million as of Jan. 8, with another $1 million in reserve. That would be enough funding to continue with purchases of homes, but not enough for all remaining 30 homes requested.
  • PPA Position:  Since the program is insufficiently funded, no funds should be taken from the geothermal relocation and community benefits fund until a formal review of the program is completed and new direction is developed.   
  • PPA Position:  Under no circumstances should the fund be used to supplement the county budget for required county functions.   Rather the fund should be used for relocation and community benefits.   As to benefits, the priority should be to provide benefits first  to those most impacted by geothermal.
Resolution 249-15 is also problematic and I never cease to be amazed by elected officials like Illigan who appear so cold and out of touch with the families that live near these plants.

Two of the WHEREAS statements Mr. Illigan wants passed are patently false (lies): ".....production of energy through such development has continued to occur safely, with zero emissions, and has assisted in lowering the cost of energy to consumers" and "....drilling operations by PGV (have) been conducted in a manner consistent with best available control technology....

We agree that Hawaii County needs a resolution addressing geothermal energy. The county's geothermal resource permit (GRP) is out of date and does not conform to Clean Air Act Title V permit requirements. The county resolution should be revised to strike the false statements and instead focus the Planning Director on re-doing the GRP, to include conformance with pertinent laws and regulations.

PPA Position:  The resolution can be supported but only with modification

  • The General Plan is an appropriate vehicle to state the County’s intent about future geothermal development
  • Some discussion of geothermal development have included use of geothermal power for local industrial and farming use, without connection to the utility
  • Geothermal plants are major industrial plants and should be built only after as much consideration as a pig farm or school
  • In the County of Hawaii, residential areas are often zoned for agriculture
  • Many of the WHEREAS statements are incorrect.  For example, the resolution says, “WHEREAS, the development of geothermal energy to help meet the energy needs of the County of Hawai‘i has a promising future, as the production of energy through such development has continued to occur safely, with near zero emissions, and has assisted in lowering the cost of energy to consumers.  This statement is in error in that:
    • Many believe centralized power sources on the grid, regardless of how the power is generated, are wrong headed.   See Thomas Lee Travis testimony to the PUC regarding the NEXTERA acquisition of HECO companies.  Therefore, the promise of geothermal energy is in doubt.
    • On August 7, 2015 PGV had a serious release that made over one hundred people sick, knocked out over ten people, and may have contributed to the death of two people.   It is expected that a major tort suit will result.
    • One quarter of the power on the island is produced by geothermal, yet Hawaii has the highest utility rates in the Nation excluding Lanai and Molokai
  • As recently as 2012 PGV drilled without using best available control technology.   Only because of pressure from the County did they do better in 2015.  No new regulatory issues were involved beyond the threat that the County’s nighttime drilling ban might apply.

PPA Position:   Before approval this resolution must be modified as follows:

  • The wording in the WHEREAS section must be modified to remove the errors.
  • The wording of the recommendations should be modified to read as follows.
  1. The appropriate Hawai’i County Planning Commission should have the authority to regulate future geothermal development in Hawai’i County, particularly as concerns land use and zoning decisions.
  2. Development of geothermal resources should mitigate impacts to people by the use of best available control technology.
  3. Additional development of geothermal resources not approved by Geothermal Resource Permit 2 should not be built within three miles of zoned residential areas.  Placement of a geothermal plant should be approved only after considering environmental, economic, community, cultural, and social issues.  
Finally, County Council members would be well advised to seek input from the affected community before offering documents such as these for consideration.
If you can help, we need you all now.
If you need more information email me here:


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