East Hawaii News

Council Nixes Environmental Impact Statements for Geothermal Exploration

May 21, 2012, 9:47 AM HST
* Updated May 21, 11:05 AM
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An exemption approved unanimously on Thursday by the Hawaii Environmental Council clears the way for non-invasive testing of potential geothermal energy sources, without the need for time-consuming and costly environmental reviews.

However, a measure that would have also allowed exploratory drilling without an environmental impact statement was defeated by a 6-4 vote. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources had sought exemptions for both activities.

geothermal exploration_Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory, Courtesy

File photo, geothermal exploration. Photo courtesy Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory.

Companies will now be able to search for potential geothermal sites using surface measuring technology, but would still be faced with an EIS if they seek to drill test-wells, however small the potential site footprint.

The state Public Utilities Commission recently granted Hawaii Electric Light Company approval to open a docket for a Geothermal Request for Proposals. The docket allows HELCO to move forward with a competitive bidding process to pursue its planned 50 Megawatt geothermal energy expansion on the Big Island.

HELCO is planning to issue the RFP in 2012.

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