BY SYDNEY ROSS SINGER – In an attempt to encourage geothermal energy production, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources is proposing a change to its Environmental Assessment (EA) exemption list to allow geothermal exploration wells to be drilled anywhere without any public comment or Environmental Assessment.
Once a good site for geothermal energy production is found, the EA process would then apparently kick in. Of course, after money and time are invested in finding a potential geothermal resource site, there will probably be enough steam to roll over any public opposition.
Getting geothermal energy from a live volcano may entail awesome technology and be a great way to wean ourselves from fossil fuels. But the public has been burned by geothermal energy in the past. With the proposed exemptions to allow exploration well drilling without an environmental assessment, the public is again being marginalized and will be put into the position of trying to stop a project that has already begun.
The Environmental Council is reviewing the proposed DLNR exemptions for geothermal well drilling. If the Council finds the exemption is inappropriate, it can fail to “concur” with the proposal and send it back to the DLNR. For those who care about their right to comment on geothermal exploration and wish to encourage the Environmental Council not to concur, there is a 30 day comment period that ends April 6, 2012.
You can read the proposed exemption list here: http://oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov/Shared%20Documents/Environmental_Council/Exemption_Lists_By_Department/Proposed-Requested-Exemptions/2012-03-08-Requested-DLNR-Exemption-List.pdf
You can send in your comments to the Environmental Council, 235 S. Beretania St., #702, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bottom line: we need new energy resources. But the public also need to stay part of the environmental review process of geothermal energy exploration, or our rights will go up in smoke.