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Science vs. the Real World on Mauna Kea

In his latest piece on the struggle to protect Mauna Kea from the Thirty Meter Telescope, Will Falk daringly takes on the sacred cow of today’s enlightened and rational society: western science. Western science, in its quest for pure knowledge, is portrayed as a value-neutral tool employed for the highest good of humanity, and therefore the entire world. But Falk goes to its roots to expose it as just another manifestation of our human supremacist culture. Contrary to the common view, science has damaged the world far more than it has helped it. Even with a narrow evaluation of the net benefit to humans, science has caused far more harm than good, except for a privileged few.

Even within liberal and activist circles, this is an unpopular view. But if we don’t honestly name root problems, we risk falling into isolated NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) struggles, each fighting off threats with the compromise “You can do it somewhere else, just not here.” It is time for us to identify the culture of civilization and its supporting ideologies, including science, as an unacceptable threat to all life, and it is time for us to stand united in fighting it back anywhere it encroaches on living communities.

Proponents of the status quo frequently shut down such discussions by charging hypocrisy: how dare you critique science using technologies developed by it? As a proactive rebuttal, Falk writes:

Sitting Bull used American made rifles to defend his people from American cavalrymen. Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Nigerian poet who was murdered for resisting Shell Oil in his homeland, wrote in English – the language of his oppressors.

I wish with all my heart that I could live as our ancestors lived – a life free from the deepest anxiety that in a few years everything might be gone. I was raised in the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains of Utah, and I wish with all my heart that I could spend my life walking in Indian paintbrush, columbine, daisies, and lupine consumed in the total wonder and beauty of life. I wish with all my heart that I could sit still in simple expression of the love I feel. But, while everyone I love is under attack, it is simply unforgivable not to do everything within my power to protect them. It is simply unforgivable not to use every tool at my disposal to defend them.

Or as another Deep Green Resistance member puts it: “We’re using our computers to fight injustice. You’re using yours to defend it. Who’s the tool user, and who’s the tool?”

Read the entire essay at Science vs. the Real World on Mauna Kea.

Action alert: geothermal issues this week

Puna Pono Alliance (PPA) just sent a newsletter, reposted below, calling for immediate community support and testimony on two issues this week. Please share this information, and testify in person or submit testimony by noon of the day prior to each meeting. Even if you read this too late to testify, it’s worth reading to stay up to date on what’s going on.

Email counciltestimony@hawaiicounty.gov (one email for each agenda item) with your testimony, which could be as simple as “I support the Puna Pono Alliance position on Bill 77.” and “I support the Puna Pono Alliance position on Resolution 249-15.”

Bill 77

Committee hearing Tuesday 8/18/15 at 1:00pm
Submitted testimony due Monday by noon

Bill 77 would take the money we fought for to help relocate people impacted by geothermal and instead use it for typical political purposes at the impacted residents expense. IMO this is another shameless attempt to take the few crumbs given to the community forced to live with these toxic power plants for political gain by Council member Illigan.

From PPA’s perspective, the problem with Bill 77 is that it further dilutes the fund, the primary purpose of which is (or should be) the relocation of residents adversely impacted by proximity to PGV. What Bill 77 does is add “staff expenses related to the program, including salaries for staff or contractors, and related fringe benefits.” Thus, the funds could be used to pay anyone for any “public purpose” expenditure in Lower Puna. Unfortunately, this has turned this into a political “slush fund,” particularly after the Planning Director suspended its use for its initial intended purpose. Instead please tell the council to restore the geothermal relocation fund to its original purpose of helping the people forced to live with these dangerous industrial developments.

  • In January 2015, the Planning Department suspended purchase of homes using funds from the geothermal relocation and community benefits fund.
  • The reason for suspension of the program was uncertainty about lava flow then in progress. Some scenarios would have prevented operation of PGV and would have resulted in no further geothermal royalties.
  • The county bought five homes late last year, the first purchases since the program was flooded with applications in 2012.
  • The Geothermal Royalty Fund had $2.7 million as of Jan. 8, with another $1 million in reserve. That would be enough funding to continue with purchases of homes, but not enough for all remaining 30 homes requested.
  • PPA Position: Since the program is insufficiently funded, no funds should be taken from the geothermal relocation and community benefits fund until a formal review of the program is completed and new direction is developed.
  • PPA Position: Under no circumstances should the fund be used to supplement the county budget for required county functions. Rather the fund should be used for relocation and community benefits. As to benefits, the priority should be to provide benefits first to those most impacted by geothermal.

Resolution 249-15

Council meeting Wednesday 8/19/15 at 9:00am
Submitted testimony due Tuesday by noon

Resolution 249-15 is also problematic and I never cease to be amazed by elected officials like Illigan who appear so cold and out of touch with the families that live near these plants.

Two of the WHEREAS statements Mr. Illigan wants passed are patently false (lies)

  • “…..production of energy through such development has continued to occur safely, with zero emissions, and has assisted in lowering the cost of energy to consumers”
  • “….drilling operations by PGV (have) been conducted in a manner consistent with best available control technology….”

We agree that Hawaii County needs a resolution addressing geothermal energy. The county’s geothermal resource permit (GRP) is out of date and does not conform to Clean Air Act Title V permit requirements. The county resolution should be revised to strike the false statements and instead focus the Planning Director on re-doing the GRP, to include conformance with pertinent laws and regulations.

  • The General Plan is an appropriate vehicle to state the County’s intent about future geothermal development
  • Some discussion of geothermal development have included use of geothermal power for local industrial and farming use, without connection to the utility
  • Geothermal plants are major industrial plants and should be built only after as much consideration as a pig farm or school
  • In the County of Hawaii, residential areas are often zoned for agriculture
  • Many of the WHEREAS statements are incorrect. For example, the resolution says, “WHEREAS, the development of geothermal energy to help meet the energy needs of the County of Hawai‘i has a promising future, as the production of energy through such development has continued to occur safely, with near zero emissions, and has assisted in lowering the cost of energy to consumers. This statement is in error in that:
    • Many believe centralized power sources on the grid, regardless of how the power is generated, are wrong headed. See Thomas Lee Travis testimony to the PUC regarding the NEXTERA acquisition of HECO companies. Therefore, the promise of geothermal energy is in doubt.
    • On August 7, 2014 PGV had a serious release that made over one hundred people sick, knocked out over ten people, and may have contributed to the death of two people. It is expected that a major tort suit will result.
    • One quarter of the power on the island is produced by geothermal, yet Hawaii has the highest utility rates in the Nation excluding Lanai and Molokai
  • As recently as 2012 PGV drilled without using best available control technology. Only because of pressure from the County did they do better in 2015. No new regulatory issues were involved beyond the threat that the County’s nighttime drilling ban might apply.

PPA Position: Before approval this resolution must be modified as follows:

  • The wording in the WHEREAS section must be modified to remove the errors.
  • The wording of the recommendations should be modified to read as follows.
    1. The appropriate Hawai’i County Planning Commission should have the authority to regulate future geothermal development in Hawai’i County, particularly as concerns land use and zoning decisions.
    2. Development of geothermal resources should mitigate impacts to people by the use of best available control technology.
    3. Additional development of geothermal resources not approved by Geothermal Resource Permit 2 should not be built within three miles of zoned residential areas. Placement of a geothermal plant should be approved only after considering environmental, economic, community, cultural, and social issues.

Finally, County Council members would be well advised to seek input from the affected community before offering documents such as these for consideration.

Oppose geothermal night-time drilling January 19

What: Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) community meeting
When: January 19, @ 6:30pm.
Where: Pahoa High School Cafeteria.
Why: PGV plans to drill without following the county ordinance that prohibits drilling between 7 PM and 7 AM

The county representatives for Puna are looking out for geothermal interests at the expense of community health. Following is an email alert from Bob Petricci of Puna Pono Alliance:

Geothermal Update

Drilling Alert

PGV has joined forces with Puna Council reps Greggor Illigan and Danny Paleka to actively campaign against the night time drilling ban we enacted to protect our community from PGV’s previous impacts due to 20 years of poor drilling practices.

Specifically, Paleka and Illigan support PGV’s stated intention to drill 24/7 in violation of the night time drilling ban.

Several major accidents and missteps at the PGV power plant last year resulted in harm to our community again, and both DOH and EPA cited PGV last year for numerous violations of their permits.

In discounting and essentially disregarding what this community has endured at the hands of PGV, both council members Illigan and Paleka have said publicly they support PGV intention to drill at night regardless of the law. That of course is in direct conflict with the communities best interest. These council reps are doing this with no legal experience to speak of and without even bothering to ask for a legal opinion from the Corporation Council. They instead are relying on a special interest (PGV) to interpret the law. This is an example of how bad government works to the detriment of the community, we should shine a light on this type of improper behavior by our our elected officials. In this case corporate interest have clearly been put ahead of the public interest by these 2 elected officials to benefit a special interest at expense of our community.

I went to Danny’s office to talk to him about this and ask for a copy of corp council’s opinion, he told me he never talked to them. He then promised to do so promptly, but don’t hold your breath. We will probably have to do that as well.

I also spoke with Council member Aaron Chung (an attorney), who told me he disagrees with Paleka, Illigan, and PGV. In fact he agrees with PPA and the community – the law applies to PGV as written. He based his opinion as do we on reading the law and the permit requirements that “PGV obey that law and all county laws.

In my opinion it is dangerous and unfortunate that Illigan and Paleka appear to be playing fast and loose with the best interest of our Puna community to benefit a special interest (PGV). I see no valid reason for them to fight for PGV against the community on this law. It is a sad commentary on the state of our county government.

Puna Pono Alliance needs your support now, this is our chance, let PGV know how you feel about the planned drilling now – before it starts.

Background

On January 19, next Monday, Puna Geothermal Venture is holding a community meeting. At that meeting they will be discussing upcoming drilling, currently scheduled from late January until March. During that drilling, PGV does not plan to comply with a county ordinance that requires drilling activity to stop between 7 PM and 7 AM.

This intended action is an insult to the community and to those who must bear the personal cost of PGV actions. If you live close to PGV, we ask that you come to the meeting in a show of solidarity in which we say you must stop placing community families second. If you live elsewhere we ask that you show your support for our neighbors that are being sacrificed to corporate convenience.

Thank you again for your past support in helping us defend our neighborhood from industrialization. We passed a law, now we need to let them know we intend to see the law enforced.

PPA Noise Committee

As you may have heard, PGV is planning to begin drilling a new well on January 25 and they say they expect it to go on for 3 months. The last time they drilled a well, it went on for 5 1/2 months and it made life miserable for people near the plant.

Despite a Hawaii County ordinance which bans nighttime drilling from 7 pm to 7 am, passed by the Hawaii County Council in response to PGV’s last drill , PGV says they will drill day and night because–they say–the ordinance does not apply to them.

We need the help of those that live close to the plant because if we don’t step up, PGV will continue to drill day and night–and they drill new wells every few years.

Paul Kuykendall and Suzanne Wakelin are working to document the noise and its impact on neighbors to force the county and state to address it as a health and quality of life issue.

The good news is that we live in an age where we can capture data via crowd-sourcing that will build our case with some very cool, high tech tools. We are going to use NoiseTube to collect and collate data using mobile phones which we can later analyze and show on google maps to quantify the noise impact.

To learn more about NoiseTube, please read this short Scientific American article

Or visit the NoiseTube webpage for more information:

We need your help to be successful. Please support us by doing the following:

1. Email lists@punapono.com with your phone number and consent to receive email updates on this project.

2. Please meet us at HAAS this Tuesday January 20 at 3:30 pm (before the usual Puna Pono Meeting) for a 30 minute training on how to use the crowdsourcing App

Please be prompt because we will only have 30 minutes.

3. If you can, please download the free app to your mobile phone by following the link below. It has instructions on how to download to an Iphone and an Android phone. If you do it before the training, we can show you how to use it.

4. Please share this email with friends and neighbors who could be negatively affected by the drilling noise.

If you want to help us stop PGV from illegally drilling at night, we need help this Monday,

If you want to connect with PPA, please come to the 4 o’clock meeting this Tuesday at HAAS School.

New geothermal well planned, with typical lies

pgv

Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV), operator of the geothermal plant in lower Puna on Hawai’i island, plans to start drilling a new well as early as January 2015.

The existing five wells have mysteriously dropped in electricity generation from 38 to 30 megawatts. The last well PGV drilled two years ago, at great expense to the sleep and health of neighbors, has never come online as it failed to find sufficient heat. In the past few years, the plant has released potentially deadly hydrogen sulfide on multiple occasions, with ongoing refusal by PGV or civil defense to put proper monitoring equipment and systems into place to protect nearby residents.

Yet PGV wants to drill a new well, and is trotting out obfuscations, vague promises, and lies familiar to anyone who’s been following the fight over the years. PGV has promised effective noise mitigation measures for decades, but never delivered.

The community fought hard to pass a county noise ordinance two years ago to ban 24 hours a day of disruptive and health-damaging drilling. PGV claims the ordinance doesn’t apply to it, and that it is dangerous to stop drilling once it has begun. Yet when the community suggested it shouldn’t start drilling if it can’t guarantee safe shut-down in emergencies such as hurricanes, power outages, or lava flows, PGV claimed those situations are totally safe. (One of the dangerous gas releases occurred recently during Hurricane Iselle – and PGV was just operating the plant, not trying to drill a new well.)

The geothermal exploitation is also a direct violation of the religion of traditional Hawaiian Pele practitioners, who oppose drilling into and stealing energy from the goddess.

Nonviolent civil disobedience was suggested at the Punaweb Forum to block any new drilling until PGV agrees to abide by the noise ordinance. Deep Green Resistance Hawai’i fully supports such an action. PGV, and corporations in general, have proven themselves indifferent to community concerns, responsive only to force (nonviolent or violent). It is insufficient, as nearby resident Paul Kuykendall put it, to “[hope] that PGV will honor not only the county law but also the impact to the community and not drill at night.”

We will report if plans unfold for direct action, so comment here if you’re interested, and subscribe to email updates in the sidebar to the right.

Monday August 11 – Honolulu Town Hall meeting on PRIMNM

People who want to protect our moana nui for everyone, including Hawai‘i, need to be heard in regard to Obama’s proposed PRIMNM expansion. The Town Hall discussion will be held on August 11 at the Ala Moana Hotel, Carnation Room, 410 Atkinson Drive Honolulu, from 5:00 – 7:00 pm. Even if you can’t attend the Town Hall meeting, you can send comments to PRI@noaa.gov, deadline is August 15.

This notice reposted from an email sent out by KAHEA: The Hawaii-Environmental Alliance.

Our oceans are threatened by overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, and climate change. According to The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2014, about 90 percent of global fish stocks are overfished or fully-fished. Researchers found that fully protected marine reserves are essential to rebuilding species abundance and diversity and increasing resilience to climate change. At least 20-30 percent of our ocean should be in protected marine reserves to ensure the productivity of marine fisheries and overall ocean health. Currently less than 1 percent of the ocean is protected in no-take marine reserves.

On August 11, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will host a Town Hall meeting in Honolulu to hear your comments on U.S. President Obama’s recent proposal to expand – by nearly nine-fold -the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM) to the outermost reaches of the already existing U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). PRIMNM currently consists of 5 uninhabited island or atoll complexes (Wake, Jarvis, Howland and Baker Islands, Johnston Atoll, and Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll) plus the ocean surrounding each.

The expanded PRIMNM would be the largest monument in the world, and commercial fishing would be banned in its 200 square mile area. Unsurprisingly, the most vehement criticisms of PRIMNM expansion have come from members of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (Wespac). Wespac says the Pacific Remote Islands are important U.S. tuna fisheries and American Samoan purse seine fisheries; these fisheries don’t harm coral reef habitats in the area; and local subsistence fishers depend on access to these areas. The Pacific Remote islands are uninhabited, save for conservation personnel, and the area accounts for only about 5% of their tuna catch.

PRIMNM expansion complements actions of Pacific Island nations that are most affected by the health of our oceans. We do not often support U.S. federal actions in the Pacific, but PRIMNM expansion aligns with policies of putting marine conservation above commercial fishing interests on which many Pacific nations – Palau, Kiribati, and Cook Islands – have already led the way. Earlier this year, Palau announced it would protect 80 percent of Palau’s EEZ; Kiribati is closing two significant areas to commercial fishing; and Cook Islands have created a no-take marine reserve 50 miles around the southern islands in the archipelago.

The expanded PRIMNM would protect irreplaceable natural resources, including:

  • 241 seamounts, undersea mountains that are hotspots of biodiversity;
  • migratory species, such as dolphins, that use these seamounts as stopovers on trips between the Hawaiian Islands and other Pacific areas;
  • 14 million seabirds representing 19 species, which use these areas as feeding and breeding grounds;
  • Reef and open ocean habitat for protected species of sea turtles and marine mammals;
  • Deep water coral ecosystems, a variety of unique coral species live at great ocean depths, some of which are up to 5,000 years old;

Further, deep seabed mining – the extraction of minerals from the seafloor or sediment below the seabed – is prohibited within the existing PRIMNM and the boundary expansion should protect more of the Pacific. Mining destroys life on the seafloor in the target area; it pollutes adjacent waters and seafloor; heavy metals and sediment discharged from seabed mining can accumulate in fish; and sediment plumes that suffocate life can travel thousands of miles from a mining operation. In Papua New Guinea, where the first mining lease was granted in an area known as Solwara 1, an estimated US $740 million per hectare is needed to repair damage to the biodiversity, ecosystem integrity, and ecosystem function caused by seabed mining.