LEILANI ESTATES SUBDIVISION, Hawaii: On the eve of an important veto override vote at the Hawaii County Council, both sides of a “heated” geothermal issue are planning to make a strong showing during the meeting to voice their opinion.
The supporters of the bills that were introduced by council chair Dominic Yagong – and vetoed by Mayor Billy Kenoi – have been well documented.
For the past few months, they have flooded the council chamber with testimony in opposition to the growth of the geothermal industry, and supporting two bills – Bill 256, a substantial revision to the geothermal relocation and community benefits program… It would prohibit the resale of homes acquired by the county through the relocation program, in order to create a buffer between the geothermal plant and residential properties. The buffer zone consists of a circle, one mile in radius.
Another bill mandating the county Civil Defense Agency prepare an emergency response and evacuation plan for the area surrounding the Puna Geothermal Venture plant.
The bills passed the council – after hours of testimony in support – only to get the boot from the mayor.
An override attempt was on the agenda two weeks ago, but the vote was set aside because Puna councilman Fred Blas was not present to cast his vote. Blas has opposed the bills in the past.
Now, the council again plans to attempt a veto override on Wednesday.
But today, we focus on the other side of the argument… a newly organized group in Leilani Estates says Bill 256 goes too far.
On Monday, Big Island Video News met with the residents at the Leilani Community Association building, where Loren Avedon showed us how the one mile radius envelopes a large chunk of the private subdivision he calls home.
Petra Wiesenbauer lives within that one mile circle. She says that there are are no health fears because of the geothermal plant, but she did say she would welcome a health study instead of the creation of a buffer zone.
They say the results of the bill could be an economic disaster for Leilani Estates.
Recently, Richard Ha, officials with PGV, and other supporters of geothermal power met with the community in this very same building. There was a large turnout, and many residents signed a petition in opposition to the Bill 256 veto override… there is another petition online here.
Which sets up a philosophical showdown for Wednesday… Members of the Pele Defense Fund and other organizations staunchly opposed to how geothermal has been done in Puna so far have vowed to picket outside the county building as well as the state health office nearby.
One thing is for sure… its going to be a long day at the council on Wednesday.