HONOLULU, Hawaii – The State Senate’s big geothermal bill was passed in the Ways and Means Committee on Thursday.
The latest draft of Senate Bill 2663 contains a long list of permitting specifications and definitions. From the bill description:
RELATING TO NATURAL RESOURCES.
Requires the use of an area or site within the conservation district for geothermal resources development to be governed by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). Authorizes the counties to issue geothermal resource permits to allow geothermal resources development in an agricultural, rural, or urban district, even if the development is not considered a permissible use under the applicable county zoning ordinances or general plan, under certain conditions. Clarifies the permitting procedures for regulators and renewable energy developers considering geothermal resources development. Includes developers of geothermal resources under the definition of “renewable energy producer” in chapter 171, HRS, to authorize the BLNR to lease or renew leases of public lands to geothermal resources developers without public auction, under certain conditions. Reserves mineral rights for all minerals in, on, or under reserved lands to the State. Requires any renewable energy producer proposing to undertake mining operations to submit an application to the BLNR for a mining lease on state lands and set requirements for the BLNR to grant such an application. Increases the maximum amount of fines for violations of chapter 182, HRS, or any rule adopted pursuant thereto. Authorizes the BLNR to set, charge, and collect administrative fines or bring legal action to recover administrative fines, fees, and costs or payment for damages resulting from a violation of chapter 182, HRS, or any rule adopted pursuant thereto. Requires all penalties, fees, and costs established and collected by the Department of Land and Natural Resources to be deposited into the special land and development fund. Takes effect 7/1/2050. (SD1)
Although the bill passed with a positive recommendation, Puna Senator Russell Ruderman had reservations.
“One point is this continues to include mandatory mediation and that takes away the right to contested case hearing,” Sen. Ruderman stated. “I’d like to remind my colleagues that we voted 25 to zero to remove that mandatory mediation last session. The reversal of that agreement resulted in the bill dying in conference committee and we came out without a county permitting geothermal bill last year. I fear that we’re in danger of doing that again this year if a lot of the flaws are not corrected with this bill.”
Ruderman was also concerned the bill would preempt the county’s ban on nighttime geothermal drilling. The Puna senator also noted that the bill does not acknowledge the recommendations of the Geothermal Public Health Assessment commissioned by Hawaii County last year.
“There were no amendments allowed based on the experience of the only district that has geothermal in it,” Ruderman said.
Ways and Means also passed another bill giving twenty per cent of royalties from geothermal resources on Hawaiian Home Lands to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and twenty per cent to the county in which the geothermal resources are located.
Status of bills represent up-to-date information via State Legislative website
SB2663 – RELATING TO NATURAL RESOURCES
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