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Big Isle legislators look to repeal PLDC, geothermal laws

HILO — For the state Legislature, 2013 might be the year of the repeal.

Since the session began Wednesday, several bills have been written to undo past legislation that critics say takes away local oversight over development.

One of the targets is the Public Land Development Corp., and a few Big Island representatives are helping to lead the charge.

Big Island Reps. Faye Hanohano, Nicole Lowen and Cindy Evans have sponsored one of two bills introduced as of Thursday to repeal Act 55, which created the PLDC.

Three other bills seek to repeal portions or amend the act.

The Legislature voted almost unanimously in 2011 to create the PLDC to spur development of state lands through public-private partnerships.

But it has been heavily criticized for its broad exemptions to local zoning and land use regulations. Several counties, including Hawaii County, and environmental groups have called for dissolving the agency.

Act 97, adopted last session, is the target of another repeal effort.

The act eliminated geothermal subzones, designated areas previously established to host geothermal power projects.

Critics say the move essentially allows such projects to occur anywhere. Hawaii County has also raised objections to the legislation, saying it eliminated references to county authority over permitting for such projects.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, Ka‘u, is leading the repeal effort and has drafted legislation to undo the act, according to state Sen. Josh Green, who is co-sponsoring the bill.

Green, D-Kona, Kohala, was also a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 3003, which became Act 97 upon adoption.

He said he was unaware of the bill’s implications on county-level oversight and believes that needs to be fixed.

Green said he remains a supporter of expanding geothermal energy.

Rep. Denny Coffman, D-Kailua-Kona, Ocean View, said he is drafting his own bill to amend the act.

His legislation would return county permitting authority while avoiding reinstating the subzones.

The repeal efforts come as good news to former Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim.

Kim said he had exited retirement to run for mayor again last year partially to seek the repeal of both acts.

Since his loss in his attempt to unseat Mayor Billy Kenoi he has met with community groups around the state and legislators, including Ruderman, to gain support for repeal.

On Wednesday, the Hawaii County Council will also weigh in on Act 97.

Councilwoman Brenda Ford has introduced a resolution urging its repeal.

Ford also introduced a resolution adopted by the council last year supporting repeal of the PLDC.

She said she sees both as threats to county oversight and called them “equally bad laws.”