LETTER: Concerns With Siting of PGV

May 19, 2019, 1:25 PM HST

I read with interest the recent coverage of the restoration of service of the facilities at PGV, particularly the comments of State Senator Russell Ruderman. I agree with his thinking and specifically, his concerns with the siting of PGV, but I wish he hadn’t expressed such concerns publicly… at least not now. Clearly, the facility has been studied, permitted, built and operated successfully. While Senator Ruderman’s concerns are well-founded, the time to have raised them was prior to approval, and I’m sure they were. Second-guessing the placement logic after the fact only serves to alarm the public, PGV and the many stakeholders and investors in the project. With the possible exception of the sixty thousand gallons of pentane on site, the shutdown proceeded smoothly with little cause for real alarm. Prior to the eruption/lava flow, the facility operated as expected.

It’s clear to most of us that a geothermal plant must be in proximity to a source of geothermal energy (heat). So, it would seem that the wells were located exactly where they should have been and, while the placement of the remainder of the facility could be considered a ‘judgement’ call, it seems more of a well-informed engineering judgement than a political one. But Senator Ruderman has indeed opened another, even larger can of worms, namely the permitting of ANY enterprise in the LERZ, including residential. Where are the calls for caution and restraint in rebuilding for ALL categories?

It’s worth noting that while the PGV facility did exactly what was expected of it, so did the lava flow. Considering the lava had to travel for several miles before reaching the facility, the question could be reasonably asked; Was there nothing that could have been done to stop or divert the flow? Were any attempts made or even considered? If not, why not? Is this not the same question that might be asked about the homes, the roads, the beaches… and on and on? Shouldn’t we (ordinary taxpayers) be asking our island officials what THEIR responsibilities are? Assuming the principals of PGV are also clear-thinking managers, wouldn’t they have asked such questions? What answers and assurances were they given?

Last year, while the lava was still erupting freely from fissure eight, I wrote a public letter suggesting we (the island) consider actively intervening in future lava flow paths while also collecting much of the vapor, gasses and particulate emissions near the sources. I also described a concept to fabricate an entirely new island industry, a foundry to forge large, cast shapes (specific to our needs) while the lava was flowing. The last outflow was conservatively estimated to have generated near a BILLION cubic yards of new lava which was put to no useful purpose. There are a number of measures that might be taken, the worst of which would be… nothing at all.

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