Here are 3 documents relating to a new lawsuit filed in
Hawaii to stop the state's geothermal nightmare and to protect the
Wao Kele O Puna Rainforest. Please contact me by e-mail at
"annies" or by phone at (808) 941-2402 if you would like more
For Immediate Release October 23, 1991 Contact: Annie Szvetecz
(808) 941-2402 Skip Spaulding (808) 599-2436
WAO KELE O PUNA vs. WAIHEE
COALITION SUES STATE TO STOP HAWAII GEOTHERMAL PROJECT
(Honolulu, Hawaii) The Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, on
behalf of an unprecedented coalition of twelve environmental,
cultural, neighborhood and business groups, filed a landmark
lawsuit today against the State of Hawaii. The suit, filed in a
Hawaii State Circuit Court, challenges the state's pursuit of the
entire geothermal/cable project on the Big Island. The "Project"
is an immense four-phase development plan to build 20 geothermal
power plants along Kilauea Volcano's East Rift Zone and to
transfer 500 megawatts of electricity to Oahu via a deep-sea
The Plaintiffs claim, in "Wao Kele O Puna vs. Waihee,"
that current activities of this federal-state-private enterprise
are in violation of the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act (HEPA).
Although over $17 million in state funds have been appropriated
for the geothermal/cable project in the past 15 years, no state
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been completed. "The
state defendants' enthusiasm for the Hawaii Geothermal Project has
outrun both their good sense and one of Hawaii's fundamental
environmental laws," said Skip Spaulding, attorney for the Sierra
Club Legal Defense Fund. "It's foolhardy to proceed with
geothermal development until a cumulative and comprehensive
environmental study, required by state and federal law are
completed," he said.
This lawsuit falls in the shadow of the June Federal Court
ruling by Judge David Ezra which ruled that the potential
environmental, social, and economic effects of the Project warrant
an EIS. The activities of True Geothermal, Ormat Energy Systems,
and the Scientific Observation Hole Program constitute the
resource "verification and characterization" phase of the
geothermal/cable project. The federal government was in
violation of the National Environmental Policy Act by
participating in the first 3 phases of this project without the
completion of an "adequate federal EIS." All U.S. agencies are
now prohibited from assisting in the project and the U.S.
Department of Energy plans to undertake an evaluation of
geothermal development in Hawaii which will include any
alternatives to the entire project.
"This new lawsuit is the decisive stroke in our campaign
to protect the Wao Kele O Puna Rainforest" said Meg Ruby of
Greenpeace USA. "The state's pursuit of geothermal has been a
Rambo-like approach to a complex energy problem," she said.
Although True Geothermal Energy Company and Ormat Energy Systems
are not defendants in the suit, it is possible that the state's
involvement in their activities will be seriously questioned.
Modeled after federal law, HEPA requires that the EIS be
done at the earliest possible opportunity before actions are taken
and project momentum becomes too great. The plaintiffs include
The Wao Kele O Puna Rainforest, Greenpeace USA, Big Island
Rainforest Action Group, Blue Ocean Preservation Society, Citizens
for Responsible Energy Development with Aloha Aina, Friends of the
Earth, Greenpeace Hawaii, Kapoho Community Association, O'ahu
Rainforest Action Group, Pahoa Business Association, Pele Defense
Fund, Rainforest Action Network, and the Sierra Club. The
plaintiffs seek a court injunction prohibiting any additional
state or county participation in the Project until a state EIS is
completed. Defendants include Governor Waihee; William Paty,
Chairman of the Department of Land and Natural Resources; Murray
Towill, Director of the Department of Business, Economic
Development and Tourism; John Lewin, Director of the Department of
Health; Lorraine Inouye, Mayor of Hawaii County; Norman Hayashi,
Director of the Planning Department of Hawaii County; and Bruce
McClure, Chief Engineer of the Department of Public Works of
"The planning and engineering of this development is
happening in secret, behind closed doors. State law provides for
an open public forum to examine projects affecting our health and
environment before substantial commitments are made. We are
taking action to force the government to follow its own laws,"
said Carl Freedman of the Blue Ocean Preservation Society.
Jane Hedtke, Secretary of Kapoho Community Association and
neighbor to current geothermal activities, is encouraged by the
lawsuit. "In the aftermath of the June blowout at Ormat, it is
apparent that geothermal is not compatible with the health,
safety, and existing land uses of the community. The EIS must
address an alternative to any geothermal development here in
WAO KELE O PUNA vs. WAIHEE Statement by the Plaintiffs
As Plaintiffs representing the Puna Rainforest, Puna
residents, Native Hawaiians, and advocates of energy conservation
and truly renewable energies, we seek a court injunction which
halts any further state or county participation in the
geothermal/cable project until a state Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) is completed.
Governor John Waihee, together with the named defendants
in this suit, have been the chief promoters instead of chief
regulators of geothermal energy as it affects the health and
well-being of the people and unique environment of this state.
Because of this ongoing governmental violation of state and
federal laws, we as plaintiffs must sue in order to protect the
environmental, economic, and cultural health of this state.
The state defines the "Hawaii Geothermal Project" to be a
"Federal- State-Private Partnership Leading Toward
Commercialization." The project is currently in "phase 3," the
exploration phase of a 500MW geothermal energy system available to
Oahu via an underwater cable. Current geothermal activities of
both Puna Geothermal Venture and True/Mid-Pacific Geothermal
Venture are part of the project's exploration phase as it is
defined by state documents and officials involved with the
"characterization and verification" phase of development.
This suit is a result of our continued efforts to seek a
moratorium on all geothermal activities in Puna until both the
state and federal EIS and the state's Integrated Resource Planning
(IRP) process is complete. This is the only action that will
afford decision-makers a thorough and competent review of our
energy options. Geothermal development has yet to stand up to the
scrutiny that a full EIS and the IRP process can provide. The
health and safety of Puna residents cannot be secured unless the
state is made to comply with the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act.
Greenpeace USA Kapoho Community Association Big Island Rainforest
Action Group O'ahu Rainforest Action Group Blue Ocean Preservation
Society Pahoa Business Association
Pele Defense Fund Friends of the Earth Rainforest Action Network
Greenpeace -Hawaii Sierra Club
WAO KELE O PUNA vs WAIHEE
"Our state's EIS statute clearly applies to our government
involvement in all aspects of geothermal development and it seems
apparent that the same reasoning which Judge Ezra applied at the
federal level is equally applicable to state action under state
State Representative Jerry Chang and State Senator Andrew
The 500MW Geothermal/Cable Project
The Hawaii Geothermal Project ("the Project") is an
immense four-phase development plan to build a complex of
geothermal power plants on the slopes of Kilauea Volcano, and
thereby generate electricity to be delivered by an inter- island
cable system to Oahu. A 1990 DBEDT report advertises the Project
as "A federal-state-private partnership leading toward
commercialization." Its stated goal is to deliver at least 500
megawatts of energy for use on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island.
The phases of the project include: (1) the resource assessment
program, which included the experimental HGP-A plant, (2) the
deep-water cable project, (3) the resource characterization and
verification program, and (4) construction of the commercial
geothermal/cable system. Since 1978 the Hawaii State legislature
has enacted laws to encourage and assist geothermal development.
The Project is recognized by law as the largest development
project ever undertaken in Hawaii. The Governor's Advisory Board
on Geothermal states that the "geothermal and cable development
should be undertaken as a single enterprise in order to expedite
Current Development: Phase III
The state's Scientific Observation Hole program together
with True/Mid- Pacific Geothermal Venture and Puna Geothermal
Venture compose phase 3 of this joint "state-federal-private"
partnership. DBED claims that the total budget for this phase is
$50 million, with $9 million from the State, $15 from the U.S.
Department of Energy, and $26 million from the private geothermal
developers currently working in the Kilauea East Rift Zone. This
stage is considered the "final, critical phase" of the Project
because the completion of up to 25 commercial-scale wells will
clear the way for private construction of the full 500MW system.
In a sworn Affidavit, a True representative stated that his
company must act quickly to demonstrate the availability of a
geothermal resource sufficient to generate 500MW to Oahu via the
Victory in Federal Court
In June 1991, the U.S. District Court (Judge David Ezra)
ruled that the federal government was in violation of the National
Environmental Policy Act by participating in phase III without the
completion of an "adequate federal EIS." All U.S. agencies are now
prohibited from participating or assisting in the project and the
U.S. Department of Energy plans to undertake an EIS on geothermal
development in Hawaii which will include alternatives to the
State Law Mandates EIS
There has never been a comprehensive and cumulative study
on the impacts of geothermal development on Hawaii's forest,
ocean. and native culture. The Wao Kele O Puna Rainforest and its
representative groups are suing the Governor, his administration
and the County of Hawaii for proceeding with the project in
violation of the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act (HEPA). The law
mandates a state EIS if an action "may have a significant effect
on the environment.." The Federal court supports the plaintiffs'
claims that the scale of environmental, social, and economic
impacts of this project warrant an EIS. These impacts include:
% Catastrophic environmental consequences
% Huge, unstudied financial risks to Hawaii taxpayers and electric
% Health and safety risks to the residents in the Puna District as
dramatically illustrated by the June 1991 blowout.
% Irreparable injury and harm to the subsistence, cultural, and
spiritual customs, practices and beliefs of Native Hawaiians
The state has not yet begun an EIS for the Project, nor
does it plan to include phase 3 in an EIS. The state's Scientific
Observation Hole program was recently halted, but plans for
re-organizing the exploration program are continuing and SOH
project manager, Harry Olson states that the program is "entering
a new phase of permitting."
HEPA requires that the EIS be done at the earliest
possible opportunity before actions are taken and project momentum
becomes too great. The above plaintiffs seek a Court order
compelling the commencement of the state EIS process and a halt to
all further state or county participation in the Project until all
defendants have complied completely with their HEPA obligations.
Source: Wao Kele O Puna vs. John D. Waihee III, Complaint for
Declaratory and Injunctive Relief