Commentary: Puna’s March On HELCO – Petition Circulating

A Press Release sent to me by Barb Cuttance:

Between 10am and noon on Monday, August 19, marchers will deliver a petition to Helco that states, “We want Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) to stop its contract for new geothermal development on the Island of Hawaii, because the contract was excluded from the utility company’s recent public planning effort, and previous geothermal sites on this island have been notoriously unsafe, unclean, and poorly regulated.”

HELCO Petition

HELCO’s CEO Jay Ignacio stated several weeks ago at a public meeting in Hilo, that HELCO would soon be deciding in late August or September which geothermal development company would receive a contract for geothermal power as a result of the recent Request For Proposal (RFP). HELCO did not consult with the community prior to the RFP about any proposed expansion of geothermal in Puna.

On March 13 this year, the community was once again exposed to toxic emissions from PGV after HELCO went off line and caused PGV to vent H2S into the community. People in the area reported feeling ill shortly afterwards and fish in nearby ponds died. Since the PGV plant opened in 1989, there has been 70 separate toxic emissions into the community. A blowout in 1991 lasted for over 30 hours causing evacuations. After the 1991 thirty hour emergency, animals were found dead. There have also been 18 Civil Defense declared emergencies at PGV. Some people believe they are suffering ill heath because of all these emissions.

Puna Pono Alliance president Bob Petricci said, “We question the effectiveness of having a planning process when HELCO issues an RFP, and the contract to build another 50 mega watts of geothermal power is awarded before the planning process is complete. A robust planning process would ensure the community is consulted prior to any contract being awarded”.

According to the march organizer Steve Sparks, “There seems to be strong community support for the March. The concept has really inspired the community with many people likely to join along the way”.

The March on HELCO will start at 10:00 am on Saturday, August 17th in front of Pahoa High School.  On the last day of the March,  Monday, August 19th at 10:00 am the March will move toward the HELCO Offices at Kilauea Avenue in Hilo where the petition will be presented to Mr Ignacio.

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