(BIVN) – The County of Hawai‘i Planning Department has accepted the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Puna Geothermal Venture Repower Project.
In a letter to the Hawaiʻi State Office of Planning and Sustainable Development dated January 22, 2024, Hawaiʻi County Planning Director Zendo Kern said the “procedures for assessment, consultation, review, preparation, and submission of the FEIS have been completed satisfactorily.”
Opponents of the Puna Geothermal Venture operation were outraged to see the acceptance letter printed in The Environmental Notice on Thursday, after spending hours at county office buildings in Hilo earlier this week, seeking to speak to officials, unaware that the Final EIS had already been accepted.
“I would like you to imagine how we felt this morning after finding out Zendo Kern actually approved PGV’s EIS on January 22, 2024 and nobody from his office or anyone at all could be bothered to communicate that with us, either by email or by walking out of the Planning Department Office last Monday or Tuesday,” wrote Puna resident Sara Steiner in a letter to County administration and Council officials, which was also shared with media. “We were there for about 8 hours asking you to reject the EIS. You emailed me Friday and said we couldn’t get a meeting with Zendo, you could have told us you approved the thing and we wouldn’t have had to drive to Hilo for 2 days and waste our time. Unbelievable!!!” Steiner wrote.
Steiner, who has been studying a link between the Puna Geothermal operations and the 2018 eruption of Kīlauea on the lower East Rift Zone, says the Final EIS is incomplete and should have been rejected by the County. Working with Larry Wood, Steiner supplied detailed comments and materials in support of her concerns, which can be found in the voluminous appendices section of the Final EIS.
The EIS was required by the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission, as it considered the approval of an Amended and Restated Power Purchase Agreement between PGV and Hawaiian Electric.
As summarized in the Final EIS document:
Puna Geothermal Venture is currently authorized for and operating a geothermal power plant in the Puna District and proposes to replace the current 12 operating power-generating units with up to four energy converters. The project would increase the production of renewable energy at the existing facility (within the current site fence line) using new, more efficient units on a smaller land footprint compared to the existing units. The project would increase power production from 38 to 46 megawatts in Phase 1 and further increase production to 60 megawatts in Phase 2.
The Hawaiʻi PUC declined to be the accepting authority for the EIS. The Hawaiʻi State Office of Planning and Sustainable Development later designated the County of Hawai‘i Planning Department as the approving agency.