All Royalties Derived From Geothermal Resources Development on Hawaiian Home Lands Must Benefit Native Hawaiians

Attorney General David M. Louie announced today that he has issued a Formal Opinion concluding that 100% of the royalties derived from geothermal resources development on Hawaiian home lands must be used for the benefit of native Hawaiians.

Puna Geothermal Venture

Puna Geothermal Venture

Attorney General Louie has announced that he has issued Formal Opinion No. 14-1 (Op. No. 14-1) in which he has concluded that pursuant to article XII, sections 1 and 3, of the Hawaii State Constitution, and section 4 of the Admissions Act, 100% of the royalties derived from geothermal resource development on Hawaiian home lands must be paid to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) to be used for the benefit of native Hawaiians.

As a compact with the United States upon admission of Hawaii as a state, Hawaii accepted responsibility to manage and dispose of the Hawaiian home lands under the terms of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920, as amended (HHCA). Section 203 of the HHCA describes the lands that comprise the Hawaiian Home lands (also known as the “available lands”). The Admissions Act provides that “all proceeds and income from the ‘available lands’, as defined by the [HHCA], shall be used only in carrying out the provisions of [the HHCA].”

Attorney General Louie stated that “following a comprehensive legal analysis by the capable deputy attorneys general in my office, I have concluded that the DHHL has the right to receive all proceeds and income from the available lands, including 100% of the royalties derived from geothermal resource development.” Based on the analysis of sections 204 and 206 of the HHCA, the opinion also concludes that DHHL is the state entity authorized to manage geothermal resources on Hawaiian home lands.

“I hope that by issuing Op. No. 14-1, the Legislature and the community will have a greater appreciation of the constitutional and legal foundation for DHHL’s rights to the economic benefits of geothermal resource development on Hawaiian home lands.”

A copy of Op. No. 14-1 can be reviewed and downloaded at Op. No. 14-1 Letter to the Honorable Jobie M.K. Masagatani, Chairman, Hawaiian Home Commission, Regarding Management and Disposition of Geothermal Resources on DHHL Lands<http://ag.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/AG-Opinion-14-1.pdf>.

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