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Steps Taken to Mitigate Risks to Puna Geothermal Venture

May 11, 2018, 11:56 AM HST · Updated May 11, 12:00 PM
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Governor David Ige issued a supplemental emergency proclamation for the 2018 Kīlauea eruption that, among other emergency management functions, establishes lines of authority that enables a more comprehensive response to changing and unpredictable risks posed by the current eruption.

Hawaiʻi County Mayor Harry Kim with Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige at the Emergency Operating Center. PC: May 4, 2018, courtesy Office of the Governor.

Those risks include possible impacts to Puna Geothermal Venture, which is located on Kīlauea’s Lower East Rift Zone.

The governor this week, exercised his authority, as provided by Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes 127A-12(13), and directed the Director of Emergency Management, the Administrator of the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency, Mayor Harry Kim, and the administrator of the Hawaiʻi Civil Defense Agency, to lead a team to develop and implement mitigation steps as necessary to protect public health and safety. In addition to county responders, the team includes federal and state agencies as well as PGV.

In announcing his plans, Gov. Ige said, “I am placing a tremendous degree of responsibility on two nationally and internationally renowned emergency and mission managers. Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency Administrator and retired US Navy Captain Thomas Travis, and County of Hawai‘i Mayor Harry Kim, are proven leaders who care deeply for the public and have the capacity to plan, mobilize and get the job done in a quick and efficient manner.”

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Given the current situation, the governor determined that a team approach will ensure the most responsive and effective outcomes. Therefore, he has directed Administrator Travis to work directly with Mayor Kim and the County of Hawai‘i’s Civil Defense Director Talmadge Magno. Other key agencies include the Hawai‘i National Guard, the state Departments of Health, and Land and Natural Resources, as well as the County of Hawai‘i’s Departments of Planning, Fire, Police and Parks and Recreation. Puna Geothermal Venture will be incorporated into the team to provide critical knowledge of the facility and operational functions.

The team will review and assess the existing PGV Emergency Response Plan and develop a specific mission strategy deemed appropriate to mitigate potential impacts from lava. Expected steps include addressing the supplies of pentane gas used in the production of geothermal power including options for off-site relocation or controlled leakage or burn. Contingency plans will be made to secure and evacuate area residents should lava intrusions cause elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) or sulfur dioxide (SO2) to be released.

“State and county teams will work closely to marshal the necessary resources to fully engage and ensure a successful effort to secure PGV’s facilities and protect public health, safety and the environment,” said Gov. Ige.

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Gov. Ige and his team have spent several days in the field viewing and assessing the current eruption and conducting briefings and meetings with Mayor Kim, state and federal resources and community members to fully assess the ongoing activities and impacts in the Kīlauea Lower East Rift zone.

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