VIDEO: County tackles geothermal health study, night drilling




Video by David Corrigan | Voice of Stephanie Salazar

HILO, Hawaii: The County of Hawaii released more information on the Independent Geothermal Health Assessment Joint Fact Finding Study.

Health concerns related to the production of geothermal energy on the island has led to the initiative.

Mayor Billy Kenoi first spoke of these specific plans at a Leilani Estates Association meeting a few weeks ago. The community is located within a few miles of the Puna Geothermal Venture powerplant.

On Tuesday, the county had more:

Officials say “The purpose of this effort is to collect the existing body of knowledge about documented health studies associated with geothermal operations, both here and around the world.

“The Joint Fact Finding effort will collect a range of existing information on air quality around the PGV plant and create a summary of kinds of health issues that community members believe may be linked to geothermal operations.

“Based on a broad and inclusive body of existing information, the study will develop an outline of priority health issues and preferred methodologies that would guide new health research in the Puna region.

At the Leilani meeting, Kenoi promised a fair process

Dr. Peter Adler of Accord 3.0. – who the county says is a nationally known and Hawaii based expert in the field of complex issue management and collaborative problem solving – will convene an independent Working Group to review existing data and come up with a final report.

Addler himself will will be responsible for designing and implementing an independent fact finding process and for preparing an independent report due in February of 2013.

The issue has been on the minds of residents for years, but really reached a boiling point this year when state-led requests for exemptions to certain environmental laws in order speed up the expansion of geothermal on the island were made.

Council Chair Dominic Yagong introduced a bill that would have initiated a health study.

However, the bill would have also changed the geothermal relocation and community benefits program.

The community was divided over the issue. Meanwhile, the county council approved the bill, only for it to be vetoed by the mayor.

Although the mayor’s veto had the support of many in the Leilani community, the desire to conduct a health study remained.

Now, the administration is coming up with its own plan… this time the funds to conduct health studies will be available through the Geothermal Asset Fund, which is overseen by the Windward Planning Commission.

The county says Dr. Adler will begin immediately with a series of one-on-one interviews with a range of community, medical and regulatory individuals. He hopes to identify key issues, data sources and people that can bring unique insight and information to the topic. Based on these interviews, Adler will convene a formal Working Group made up of the full spectrum of expertise and passions in the issue. The county says this Group will meet for 3-4 months to review existing studies, listen to additional input and help to define a clear path forward.

Meanwhile, Hawaii County Council Chair Dominic Yagong  hasn’t given up his geothermal fight.

Bill 292 seeks to stop exploratory drilling in the night time hours. Residents living near the Puna Geothermal Venture power plant have complained about the noise during the most recent round of drilling.

Yagong has taken up the cause in his new resolution, which was voted through committee with a positive recommendation.

Some questioned if the county has the authority to make such mandates. There was a hangup during the discussion when the county corporation counsel wanted to go to executive session.

It is not known what privileged information was discussed during the closed door meeting, however the council continued with their discussion in public view right afterwards.

The council questioned PGV plant manager Mike Kaleikini about the current permit to drill.

The bill passed first reading. It will need to pass one more vote at the council before going to the mayor for his approval.

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