Bill giving state authority over plants dies

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A bill aimed at giving the state sole regulatory authority over geothermal power plants died in conference committee.

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A bill aimed at giving the state sole regulatory authority over geothermal power plants died in conference committee.

Sen. Lorraine Inouye, the bill’s main sponsor, said lawmakers could not come to an agreement on the measure — opposed by critics of geothermal development — after the House passed a nearly blank version.

“I had a good bill,” said Inouye, D-North Hawaii. “We were all happy with it,” she added, referring to the Senate.

Not everyone shared the same sentiment.

Sen. Russell Ruderman, one of Inouye’s Big Island colleagues, spoke strongly against the measure for preventing counties from passing their own geothermal regulations unless delegated that power.

“This kind of facility needs monitoring,” Ruderman said in the Senate in March.

“The state has not done an adequate job and it does no meaningful monitoring of this facility,” he added.

Inouye, who said she thinks the state is best able to regulate geothermal facilities, said she introduced the bill at the request of Puna Geothermal Venture, which is facing a lawsuit for drilling at night in violation of a county ordinance adopted in 2012. Plant officials say they need to be able to drill around the clock for safety reasons.

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If passed, the measure was expected to resolve the issue in favor of the 38-megawatt power plant.

Bob Petricci, of litigant Puna Pono Alliance, said they plan to move for summary judgment now that the bill died.

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