Saturday | April 25, 2015
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Fracking ban builds up steam

activity, say the ban is needed to err on the side of caution and ensure that damage can’t be done.

More than a dozen people spoke in favor of the bill.

Many were from Puna, which hosts the state’s only geothermal plant and is one of the more geologically active areas.

“Just because you have the technology doesn’t mean you have to use it,” said Leimana Pelton, who compared the potential threats to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Several commenters noted concerns over earthquake activity and referred to projects elsewhere they say had been stopped for that issue.

“We are very concerned that induced seismic activity can have more significant consequences for us, too, because we’re sitting on a volcano,” said Suzanne Wakelin.

Others spoke of the need to put people before corporate profits.

Ka‘u/South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford, who introduced the bill, called the legislation “pre-emptive.”

“This is not just about Puna,” Ford said. “It could happen on other islands, too.”

State Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Puna, Ka‘u, also spoke in favor of the bill.

He introduced an anti-fracking bill last session which was later withdrawn in favor of a resolution.

Ruderman has said he plans to propose a statewide ban again next year.

Ormat Technologies, which runs Puna Geothermal Venture, finished an enhanced geothermal project earlier this year in Nevada.

In an email to Stephens Media Hawaii in September, company spokeswoman Heidi Bethel said it was the first to be attached to the electrical grid in the United States.

She also said that no chemical additives were used during the process, which involved water and “geothermal brine.”

“Geothermal stimulation is much different than natural gas fracking,” Bethel wrote.

“For starters, it aims to enhance natural permeability by shifting existing fractures while both oil and natural gas use very high pressure to break the rock and create fractures that otherwise would not exist.”

In a follow-up email, Bethel acknowledged that “tracer compounds” were used to track the flow in groundwater and surface water during the process.

The project’s environmental assessment referred to those compounds as uranine and napthalene sulfonates.

Bethel said the company, which operates the 38-megawatt plant and is seeking a contract with Hawaii Electric Light Co. for another 50 mgw, does not plan to use enhanced geothermal in the state.

Email Tom Callis at