UPDATE: “Puna Pono” Protesters Meet with HELCO President
(Updated 2:20 p.m. Aug. 19:)
Ignacio reportedly met with the group for approximately 45 minutes, in an exchange that Sparks described as “gracious.” Ignacio was presented with a petition that the Puna Pono Alliance has been circulating (outlined above). HELCO officials later confirmed Ignacio’s meeting with the group to Big Island Now.
At the meeting, Ignacio took the petition, which according to sparks has received over 3,300 signatures. The HELCO President then agreed to officially receive the document once more near Kilauea Avenue where most of the protesters were gathered.According to Sparks, the group then presented a copy of the petition to Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who was at a nearby event. Protesters delivered the petition to an Abercrombie aid, in an encounter that Sparks described as “purely coincidental.”
The group then marched further down Kilauea Avenue to the office of Hawai`i County Mayor Billy Kenoi, who protesters encountered returning from his lunch break. Sparks described the encounter with the mayor, who was also provided a copy of the petition, as a friendly one.
Sparks called the event a positive experience, and expressed gratitude to the police officers that protesters encountered during their march and subsequent gathering at HELCO headquarters.
According to Sparks, estimates on the number of protesters involved at the HELCO gathering hover at approximately 230, although he believes that number fluctuated throughout the day.
The Puna Pono Alliance organizer seemed pleased at the turnout, commenting “this was actually twice as big as we thought it would be.”
(Posted Aug. 19:)
Amid a flurry of sign-waving, drumming and shouting, hundreds of protesters converged on Kilauea Avenue in Hilo this morning to show their opposition to a planned geothermal expansion in Puna.
Carrying signs reading everything from “Save Pohoiki” to “Geothermal Kills,” the vocal group of marchers made their way toward Hawaiian Electric Company’s main office building across from the Hilo Shopping Center, where another group of protesters had gathered to await their arrival.
The marching protesters had first assembled at Pahoa High School on Saturday, Aug. 17, before slowly making their way toward Hilo over the weekend via Highway 130.
The march and ensuing protest was arranged by the Puna Pono Alliance, an East Hawai`i-based environmental group known for its opposition to further geothermal development, particularly in the area surrounding Pohoiki in Puna.
Protesters planned to deliver a list of demands by hand to HELCO president Jay Ignacio.
A statement by the organization on its website lays out the demands it would like the utility to meet:
“We want Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) to stop its contract for new geothermal development on the Island of Hawai`i because (1) the contract was excluded from the utility’s recent public planning effort and (2) previous geothermal sites on this Island have been notoriously unsafe, unclean and poorly regulated.”
HELCO issued a formal Request for Proposals in March of 2012 to seek bids for a geothermal expansion that would add up to 50 megawatts of power-generation capacity on
the Big Island. Bidding closed on April 30, 2013, and HELCO is currently reviewing the submitted offers. The company is expected to announce the results of the bidding process some time in August or September of 2013.