WASHINGTON, D.C. -- This week, a pair of geothermal bills proposed by council Chairman Dominic Yagong received the first of two required approvals from the Hawai'i County Council. One bill would affect how the Big Island spends geothermal royalties. The second bill would mandate evacuation plans for current and future facilities. The two bills passed by votes of 5-4 and 8-1, respectively.
The county gets ~$500,000 a year in revenue from Puna Geothermal Venture, the island’s geothermal power plant, which it uses to address community geothermal-related issues, but also to fund capital projects and services in lower Puna (including the Pahoa council office and security at Isaac Hale Beach Park and Pahoa Community Center). The bill (No. 256-12) would limit those funds to issues related to the plant itself, such as air quality monitoring, health studies, and relocations.
The program relocating residents away from PGV began in the 1980s. The county has bought eight properties through the relocation program at up to 130 percent value which it then sells through auction. A resident relocation was approved May 11, with the last approval before that in 2005. Yagong’s legislation prevents any new properties acquired through the program from being auctioned and only allows homeowners within a mile of the plant to be eligible creating, a buffer zone around the plant. PGV Manager Michael Kaleikini said the state Department of Health does not consider the plant a health hazard, he was quoted during testimony.
This article was originally published in Geothermal Energy Weekly and was republished with permission.
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