HONOLULU, Hawaii – Companion bills that would ban fracking in Hawaii are getting the approvals needed to eventually become law, but not without some debate.

House Bill 2359, introduced by Puna State Representative Faye Hanohano, and Senate Bill 2940, spearheaded by Puna Senator Russell Ruderman, both prohibit hydraulic fracturing and the “collection, storage, treatment, or discharge of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing.” The measures also provide for penalties and enforcement.

So far, Ruderman’s senate bill has gotten a positive recommendation from the Committee on Energy and Environment, of which he is Vice Chair, as well the Committee on Water and Land, where it managed to get the vote of WTL Chair Malama Solomon, who last session opposed many of Ruderman’s geothermal related measures.

On Thursday, the House bill was discussed at a joint hearing by the House Committees on Energy & Environmental Protection and Water and Land. Both bills have gotten a flood of support, mostly from residents living in Puna who oppose the expansion of the geothermal industry in their backyard. There was some opposition, mostly from business interests connected to a new, hopeful geothermal project with its eye on developing the resource in Puna.

Those against the bill have pointed to the definitions portion of the bill, which clarifies the portion that reads: “It shall be unlawful for any person, corporation, or other business entity to collect, transport, store, process, or discharge waste fluid from hydraulic fracturing within the State without first obtaining a permit to do so.”

From the definitions section:

“Fluid” means any material or substance which flows or moves whether in semi-solid, liquid, sludge, gas, or any other form or state.

“Hydraulic fracturing” means a drilling operation into an underground geologic formation and the injection of fluids, gases, chemicals, sand, or any other substance with the intention to cause or enhance fractures in the geologic formation for the purpose of instigating or increasing the porosity or permeability of the geologic formation to initiate or increase the production of a desired commodity from a well. Hydraulic fracturing is also known as “fracking”, “hydro-fracking”, “hydro-fracturing”, “hydro-shearing”, “hydraulic shearing”, “hydro-stimulation”, or “enhanced geothermal drilling”.HB2359 as February 13, 2014

Most of the speaking against the bill was done by Mililani Trask of Indigenous Consultants, LLC, who serves as an advisor to the Innovations Development Group that is seeking a contract with HELCO, the Hawaii Island power utility, to develop geothermal power.

Why do we have this bill? … Its a fabrication to create hysteria against geothermal development.”
Mililani Trask (video at 2:52)

Patricia Brandt of IDG and farmer Richard Ha of the Big Island Community Coalition also spoke in opposition (portions of their written provided below).

On the other side of issue was Henry Curtis of Life of the Land.

(The bill) will only catch those who are not currently fracking but plan to. And if this bill will somehow delay their efforts, we definitely need the bill.”
Henry Curtis (video at 2:52)

Bob Petricci of the Puna Pono Alliance was also in Honolulu to testify. He recently told Big Island Video News that he has been renting a room for a couple nights every week just so he could be present to speak up during the legislative session.

If you look at DLNR’s testimony, DLNR says ‘The Department does not wish to prohibit the use of any future tools or methods which, if used properly, could help Hawaii’s energy needs’ … and they go on to say that they are fully able to regulate fracking. I think that says that they are interested in possibly fracking in Hawaii. Robert Petricci (Video at 1:04)

The Chair of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Willaim Aila, was also present for the hearing. He explained why his department opposes the fracking ban, but sounded amenable to a temporary moratorium on fracking over a permanent ban.

Hawaii County is already one step ahead of the state. The Hawaii County Counil voted to ban hydraulic fracturing on the Big Island last year.

Ultimately, both House committees unanimously recommended the bill pass, but with some changes. The committees amended HB2359 by:

(1) Clarifying that the definition of “hydraulic fracturing” does not include drilling into underground geologic formations for the purpose of obtaining drinking water;

(2) Including a sunset date of July 1, 2017, and changing the effective date to January 28, 2878, to encourage further discussion; and

(3) Making technical, nonsubstantive amendments for the purpose of clarity.Standing Committee Report for HB2359, House Draft 2

The measure now goes to the House Committee on Finance.

You can track both pieces of proposed legislation right here on this page.

Status of bills represent up-to-date information via State Legislative website

SB2940 – Prohibits hydraulic fracturing and the collection, storage, treatment, or discharge of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing. Provides for penalties and enforcement.

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HB2359 – Prohibits hydraulic fracturing and the collection, storage, treatment, or discharge of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing. Provides for penalties and enforcement.

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The Department of Land and Natural Resources (Department) opposes this measure for the following reasons:

To date, there has not been any hydraulic fracturing conducted in the State of Hawaii. The Department is not aware of any expressed interest to conduct hydraulic fracturing.

If a developer proposes to conduct hydraulic fracturing, the Department would require a well drilling or modification permit and disclosure in the developer’s Plan of Operation, both of which would require approval by the Department.

If a developer were to propose to conduct hydraulic fracturing, this action would need to be disclosed in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), in accordance with Chapter 343, Hawaii Revised Statutes. The Department would not issue a permit for hydraulic fracturing until completion and acceptance of a final EIS.

The Department does not wish to prohibit the use of any future tools or methods which, if used properly, could help Hawaii’s energy needs, including its Clean Energy Initiative goals.The Department recognizes the concern caused by the potential use of hydraulic fracturing, and if such a method were proposed, would take all necessary steps to ensure that it would adhere to all regulations to ensure public safety and the preservation of this public trust resource.Department of Land and Natural Resources

I oppose the passage of HBZ359 in its current form for the following reasons:

1) Public, and apparently Legislative, concerns regarding hydro-fracturing are largely based on a technology that has been applied to a geologic environment that is fundamentally different from that in Hawaii, using methods, and for purposes, that are fundamentally different from those for which it gm be applied in Hawaii;

2) In much of the public discussion, the impacts allegedly associated with application of this technology in Hawaii are based on conditions and processes that are not relevant to any potential application of hydro-fracturing technology in Hawaii’s geology;

3) Should this technology ever be seriously contemplated for use in Hawaii, many, if not all, the adverse impacts of the use of hydro-fracturing, can be mitigated, if not completely eliminated, through proper regulation of the time, the place, and the methods of its application;

4) The bill, as currently written, doesn’t adequately characterize the technology, nor does it specify sufficient limitations, that will prevent mis-application of the law to what are now ongoing and permitted processes in Hawaii.Don Thomas

Hu‘ena Power, a Hawaii based geothermal development company majority owned by Native Hawaiians “sought and obtained” the written opinion of Doctor Sadiq Zarouk, “an internationally recognized authority on geothermal development, on the issue of Fracking in Hawaii.” The written statement, which was published on the Civil Beat website, was often referenced by Mililani Trask during her testimony.

1. Fracking is normally carried out after the completion of drilling. Fracking is NOT normally used/applied in conventional geothermal, which is the case for geothermal power development in New Zealand, Hawaii and another 22 countries around the world.

2. I can say with confidence that there is not going to be any fracking in future geothermal development in Hawaii.

3. Legislation such as Bill 129 that purport to be inspired by what other regions have done to protect against fracking should be based on facts. The UK, New Zealand and Canada cited in Bill 129 have NOT banned fracking. The UK did have a moratorium which was lifted in December 2012.

4. Water is used in great quantities while drilling new wells. But it is a temporary phase of two to three months and limiting its use will only inhibit efficient start-up operations.

5. Some limited use of chemicals for cleaning, improvement of permeability and prevention of mineral deposits inside the well may be necessary. This does not constitute tracking and may be necessary for the operation of the plant.

6. It is not prudent to give an administrator without the appropriate science and geothermal engineering expertise the power to shut down operations as this bill does. In New Zealand, the drilling inspector is someone trained to perform that function and has the necessary qualifications tor it. Having an administrator without the relevant experience wielding that kind of power is not conducive to good decision-making or good business. It is therefore also not good for the community.

7. It is true that some drilling equipment can be used for fracking. However, an administrator who does not have a full understanding of geothermal operations may be empowered by this bill to shut down the site because he or she sees equipment that can be used for fracking even if there is no fracking taking place or being planned.

8. All the Hawaii islands are volcanic, so there are no likely hydrocarbons (Oil. Gas. Coal etc.) to be accessed using fracking. These are the industries that use fracking; not geothermal.Sadiq Zarrouk, Geothermal Reservoir Engineer

I strongly oppose this measure because it does not relate to geothermal development in Hawaii, is costly and is being proposed to generate fear & hysteria relating to a technology that simply is not being used. tested or considered for our State.

1. Hydrofracking is a technology generally used in the testing & production of oil & gas. There is no oil or gas in Hawaii.

2. No one is using hydrofracking in Hawaii & no one intends to. The proponents of this Resolution do not site any evidence of this because there is none.

3. Claims that Hawaii is currently “being assessed” as a potential site for this technology are false. Where is the evidence of this assertion in the Resolution? There is no evidence that this is occurring in Hawaii, and the possibility that this technology will be used in Hawaii are nil.

4. Claims that hydrofracking is being tested in Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) and so are applicable in Hawaii are false & not substantiated by science or current research. EGS technology is not appropriate in Hawaii because Hawaii has volcanic soil that is permeable & Hawaii has significant rainfall. EGS applications are appropriate in the western continental USA where there is little or no rain & no permeable soils.Mililani Trask, Indigenous Consultants, LLC

If you review testimony on this bill & others like it in 2013 &2014-, you will find that none of the testimony submitted actually provides any real examples or evidence in Hawaii. Last year, Life of the Land claimed that 21 geothermal developers bidding on the HECO RFP for Hawaii island were using Fracking — however when asked to provide the names of these companies, Life of the Land was unable to comply because there was none.Patricia K. Brandt of Innovations Development Group

Many people are afraid of the term “fracking”. They confuse what is happening in the oil and gas industry with geothermal drilling. They confuse enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) with our geothermal. The difference is that Hawaii geothermal has heat and water to transmit the heat, while other places have only hot rocks and need to pump water and fracture the rock to allow the heat to flow.

The (EGS) systems have had earthquakes. But, its generally in the 2 to 3 range on the Richter scale, not enough to raise kama‘aina Big Islanders eyebrows. If we are concerned about size of earthquakes we should put in control procedures, not ban the procedure altogether. Oahu probably has the most to lose from ultra-restrictive procedures.

So, this geothermal “fracking” bill does nothing positive, it can however raise costs to the rubbah slippah folks. We are against this bill.Richard Ha, chairman of the Big Island Community Coalition


Until there is a clear understanding of what the health and environmental impacts are, the State of Hawai‘i should move forward with prohibiting hydraulic fracturing in our islands, as it is government’s responsibility to protect the health and well-being of our citizens.Gary Hooser, a Kaua’i County Councilmember

“Please pass this pono malama ‘aina law!!!” wrote Luana Jones of the Kanaka Maoli ‘O Puna organization.

There have been at least 3 reputable government studies published in 2013 that correlate Hydraulic Fracturing or “Fracking” to earthquakes. This includes 2 in~depth studies of fracking in Geothermal energy wells.

1. A July 12, 2013 USGS study has confirmed forcing high pressure water into the Earth via Fracking can increase the number of induced earthquakes.

2. A July 27, 2013 study by the University of California — Santa Cruz confirmed the correlation between Geothermal Fracking and earthquakes.

3. A 2013 study by the Committee on Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies; Committee on Earth Resources; Committee on Geological and Geotechnical Engineering; Committee on Seismology and Geodynamics; Board on Earth and Sciences and Resources; Division on Earth and Life Studies; and National Research Council concludes Geothermal drilling causes earthquakes.

Some other issues to consider:

~ The Geothermal plant in Puna has not reduced Hawaii County energy costs, despite the promise to Hawaii residents.

~ Some (particularly those financially connected to the industry) will try to distance geothermal from fracking, however if pumping high pressure fluid into the earth fractures the rock, it is not good for Hawaii, period.

~ If those same industry sources do not plan on fracturing the land, then they should not be concerned with this bill.

~ Hawaii has an abundance of sun, wind and biofuel opportunity, and these are truly clean, environmentally friendly, renewable energy solutions. In summary, HB2359 is an insurance policy to protect our fragile Aina, and fracking is overwhelmingly not supported by Hawaii citizens.Mike Hasselle from MoveOn Honolulu Council

Fracking is VERY water intensive, and in fact the magazine publication of the American Chemical Society (Chemical & Engineering News) spelled out in a recent comprehensive article that worldwide fracking activities will indeed run in to the coming water shortage for human existence. We don’t need that kind of pressure in Hawaii. Let’s just not even start it. You don’t want to have to make future decisions on a large fracking operation vs. water needs of your constituents. Hawaii does not need fracking now, and probably never will. Let’s not go there. Thank you for passing this sane and “preventive” legislation. I know you will do the right thing for Hawaii’s futureAndrea Rosanoff, Pahoa

The consequences of hydraulic fracturing on the slopes of one of the world’s most active volcanoes are at best unknown and could be disastrous. It is incumbent on proponents of this technology to prove that this procedure is safe and environmentally benign. Until then, fracking must be banned.Christopher Biltoft

Geothermal Fracking has the following issues:

1. Water Use. Fracking and filling the geothermal reservoir can use hundreds of millions or billions of gallons of water. Geothermal fracking uses over many times the water of oil gas/well fracking. (An oil or gas well uses 3 to 8 million gallons in its lifetime, one geothermal well in Oregon will use 122 million gallons in two years)

2. Water Contamination. The fracking process can cause vertical cracking, contaminating the fresh water above the geothermal resource. Well blowouts, unlikely but common accidents, can also contaminate drinking water.

3. Earthquakes. Earthquakes have shut down several geothermal projects, sometimes permanently, and damage claims from earthquakes have been paid by other projects. It takes up to several months for earthquakes to subside after halting the EGS project.

4. Social, economic, and cultural impact on the community. Issues include truck and other traffic on narrow or busy roads, noise impact, creation of water shortages or degradation of water quality from over-use, unabated or abated release of hydrogen sulfide (a poisonous, foul smelling gas), potential steam and chemical plumes during flow testing, restricted access to public trails and paths, and the need for extensive road construction.Paul Kuykendall, Pohoiki

As you know, last year the County of HaWai‘i enacted Ordinance 13-115 to accomplish a similar prohibition. The County law says hydraulic fracturing poses serious threats to HaWai‘i Island’s air, Water, Watersheds and aquifers, and the public health and safety, and refers to the fact that hydraulic fracturing is known to cause earthquakes.Harry Kim, former Hawaii County mayor

None of the publications that are promoting EGS in Hawai’i include proper assessment of the potential dangers of these technologies, they simply focus on the potential benefits and the econoics. PICHTR Hawaii Geothermal Assessment and Roadmap published in 2013 includes statements about the potential for getting Federal money for EGS experiments as well as loosening the regulatory system. Hawaii Renewable Energy Development Venture Technology Assessment Engineered Geothermal Systems concludes that it “…might be a good investment for Hawaii…”. No mention is made of the potential devastation that may occur from these experiments. The risks of hydraulic fracturing to the unique geologic, geographic, and aquatic environment of Hawai’i are too great to leave this issue to chance. Suzanne Wakelin

Video still: Mililani Trask testifies against fracking ban

Video still: Mililani Trask testifies against fracking ban