NOTE: This story was produced for our TV program on Na Leo o Hawaii in March. The story consists of three parts but aired as one report, therefore we present the three videos as one as a part of our Best of 2013 series.
HONOLULU, Hawaii – The Hawaii State Legislature has reached the halfway point of the 2013 session, and all eyes are on the possible repeal of the Public Land Development Corporation.
Last year, the PLDC was met with community outrage after being quietly signed into law the year before. It was key legislation in Governor Neil Abercrombie’s New Day Hawaii plan, intended to foster public-private partnerships in the development of harbors, parks, and other lands held in trust by the cash strapped Department of Land and Natural Resources.
During public hearings over the proposed administrative rules for the new entity, testifiers lashed out, demanding nothing short of a repeal of the law. Legislators – some newly elected – got the message.
Senate bill 707 draft 2 would do the job; it also transfers PLDC employees and assets to the DLNR. That bill has been voted through to the house, and has been referred to the house committees on Water and Land and Finance.
At the same time, house bill 1133 – which does the same thing – now waits for its senate committee hearings, having passed through the house. State representatives gave their final approval on February 14 during this floor session. Here are some of the comments made by lawmakers during the vote, available for viewing on the capitol’s official website.
Whatever legislation makes it to through to the governor’s desk will still have to be signed by Abercrombie to become law. The governor has acknowledges the unpopularity of the PLDC, and he has even suggested that if the law cannot be adequately amended he would consider a signing off on a repeal. However, he has not abandoned his philosophy on the value of public-private partnerships.
At this recent speech given at a groundbreaking for a new air cargo facility at the Hilo International Airport, Governor Abercrombie had a mouthful for folks like the ones who spoke out against the PLDC.
Puna resident Robert Petricci has been one of outspoken opponents of the PLDC. This was Petricci’s testimony in August of last year during a hearing on the new state agency held in Hilo.
Petricci has been concerned about the PLDC’s impact on geothermal development. Hawaii Island’s east rift zone, which cuts through the heart of Puna, holds vast potential for geothermal energy. But Petricci and others say the industry has affected their quality of life.
The Puna Pono Alliance and other community organizations have been active in advocating for the repeal of the PLDC, as well as Act 97 which got rid of geothermal subzones and opened the door for developers to locate geothermal production wells anywhere. Pettricci says its been a challenge following the day to day developments with the new legislation, especially from another island. He also warns that despite the talk of repeal, there are other things coming down the pike related to geothermal development that are of concern.