Aloha Constituents and Concerned Citizens,
I want to thank everyone who supported my position in objecting to the process used to create and pass House Bill 252. Please know that all the emails and calls that each senator received were crucial to the approval of the important amendment I proposed this morning. Without your public comments, this may not have happened. I remain concerned that due process, including public comment, was by-passed, yet as the process was going forward regardless, including a major improvement was the best course of action to take.
I object strongly to the process that introduced geothermal permitting procedures into an unrelated bill, HB252, without public notice of the changes or opportunity to testify. While the bill has some desirable provisions, the lack of transparency is difficult to support. The procedures used to by-pass public input are potentially unconstitutional, as is the fact that HB252 now contains two unrelated subjects. It is unfortunate this kind of politics persists in our State legislature.
Earlier in the session we had two bills on this issue, HB106 and HB932. HB106, which restored County oversight and contested case hearings, was supported by Hawaii County Council, OHA, Puna community groups, and 90% of testifiers. HB106, which had the support of the majority of the subject matter committees, was deferred, probably in hopes of passing HB932 instead, yet HB932 did not have support in committee. HB932does restore county oversight, but replaced contested case hearings with forced mediation and made changes to the definition of geothermal. It was opposed by all community groups and individuals, yet supported by Hawaii County Mayor and DLNR.
The last minute language inserted in HB252 is similar to HB932. Inserting this language, from the bill with the least support, thwarts the desires of the impacted community, the Hawaii County Council, and OHA. The voice of the community was ignored by this objectionable procedure. This continues a long-standing trend that has resulted in the problems and controversy we now have over poorly planned geothermal development.
Instead of voting “no,” in what appeared to be a losing battle to kill the bill, I submitted an amendment to improve HB252. My amendment removes the requirement for mediation from this bill. As senator of the only district with geothermal development, I am aware of some of the problems that result from poorly regulated planning. Required mediation processes proved profoundly unsuccessful in 1990. The agreements reached in mediation were violated, and the enforced mediation process is widely reviled by the community. The affected communities deserve the right to contested case hearings, as is the common remedial action in most planning disputes. By removing references to mediation, citizens’ rights are protected, and one of the most objectionable portions of HB252 is corrected.
My community and I support safe geothermal development. We simply desire fair treatment and due process to ensure a safe community. Given that the amendment was approved; I can now support this bill instead of opposing it, since it does provide for the reinstatement of county oversight that was taken away in Act 97.
Again, I want to thank everyone who submitted comments and will continue to remain vigilant when similar tactics are applied to legislation that could negatively affect my district and the State. You provided a voice that was heard loud & clear! No new testimony is needed at this time.
Thank you for your support and involvement!
Senator Russell E Ruderman
Hawaii State Senate
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