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PGV opponents appeal dismissal of lawsuits seeking environmental review

Appeals were filed late last month in a trio of lawsuits that requested an updated environmental review be completed for Puna Geothermal Venture, which was damaged by lava in 2018.

Two appeals were filed June 28 in the state’s Intermediate Court of Appeals by Hilo attorney Gary Zamber. One was on behalf of the nonprofit environmental group Puna Pono Alliance, plus Luana Jones, Shana Ritsema and Jon Olson, who are nearby residents of the geothermal power plant.

The other was on behalf of residents Annamarie Kon and Gene Lang Thomas and longtime environmentalist Martha “Cory” Harden.

A third appeal was filed June 29 by Sara Steiner.

All three appeals name the state Department of Health and and PGV as appellees.

Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto, who presides over environmental court, last month dismissed all three individual lawsuits, which were filed in October 2020.

The lawsuits claim the 1987 environmental impact statement for the power plant is inadequate and outdated and sought an updated EIS before PGV be allowed to produce energy.

The DOH had determined an additional environmental review wasn’t required for the renewal of an air-pollution control permit PGV needs to operate.

In a letter to PGV and opponents dated Sept. 4, 2020, then-state Health Director Bruce Anderson, who has since retired, wrote, “The DOH has taken a hard look at all the environmental factors raised in … demands for (environmental review), and it has concluded independently that a new or supplemental environmental review is not required to be conducted by the DOH for renewal … .”

In his written orders dismissing Puna Pono Alliance’s and Steiner’s suits, Nakamoto noted Anderson’s environmental review decision wasn’t made in a contested case hearing and said his court “lacks the appellate jurisdiction” to overturn it.

PGV restarted in early November — more than two years after the 2018 eruption of Kilauea volcano forced it to stop producing electricity — and continues to ramp up to full production capacity.

“We are currently operating at 25 megawatts of power and are targeting to get another generator back online by the end of July, which we estimate will bring us up to 30 MW of generating capacity,” said Mike Kaleikini, PGV’s senior director, Hawaii affairs, in a statement earlier this month.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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