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September 16th 2012
Puna Pono Alliance
"Letting Puna Stay Puna"
puna-geothermal-drill 4

Awesome Showing at PEIS

Mahalo to all the people who showed up for the PEIS in Hilo to express our opposition to the cable and geothermal and industrial development in Hawaii.  It was an awesome show of support for keeping Puna quiet, rural and unspoiled.  It is inspiring to see all the diverse and strong voices coming together in one resounding chorus.  

Here's a link to a one-hour video of the PEIS by OccupyHawaii:

This is one victory on a very long march.  Below you will find information about other fronts in this effort, regarding geothermal noise, the PLDC and HELCO rates.  Let's continue our solidarity and resistance to the industrialization of Puna.

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Defend Puna From Geothermal Drilling Noise
If you have heard PGV drilling a new well, then you know it is loud. Worse yet, they drill 24/7, interfering with sleep and increasing stress. This will be an issue for all of our neighbors in areas where industry is targeting exploratory geothermal wells. 

The good news is that on Tuesday September 18th at 8.30 a.m., the Agriculture, Water & Energy Sustainability Committee  for Hawai''i County Council, will be initiating an amendment  to Chapter 14, General Welfare, Hawai''i County Code, relating to geothermal drilling.   This amendment, introduced by Dominic Yagong, will add a new article that will restrict geothermal drilling to the operating hours of 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for exploratory and production geothermal drilling if there is a residence within 1 mile radius of the drill site.  

This effort is just beginning and this will be the first of several votes by the council.  If you have the time on Tuesday, we need your help to testify in support of this change, either written or in-person at the county council office at 8.30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 18th.  The committee will be meeting at the Kona Council Chambers on September 18th at 8.30 a.m.  In-person testimony can be made there or by video feed from any of the other council offices.

Details on how to testify are can be found at this link:  

A copy of the agenda for this committee meeting can be found at:

For more information about Geothermal Drilling Noise, see More About Geothermal Noise at the bottom of this newsletter.
Repeal the PLDC
Also on Tuesday, the Hawaii County Planning Committee will consider a resolution to request that the Hawaii Legislature repeal Chapter 171C of the Hawaii Revised Statutes in its entirety to effectively abolish the Public Land Development Corporation.  This meeting will happen at 10:30 am in Kona. 

Here's a sample letter for written testimony:

Re: Resolution 303-12 : about abolishing Public Land Dev. Corp state program, Planning Committee, introducer: Ford

Dear council members,
I support the resolution 303-12 introduced by Brenda Ford.
Geothermal development in populated areas is potentially toxic and dangerous in many ways, including leaks of toxic gasses, potentially creating earthquakes in an unstable area, contamination of groundwater and oceans, creation and storage of toxic waste, and the potential for accidents that require massive evacuations. These things must be studied in detail.
An EIS must be required in every project related to developing geothermal power. Public input must be required before approving projects.
The Public Land Development Corporation needs to be abolished, as it is deeply flawed in its conception and execution of its actions, and is likely to meet many legal challenges.

Thank you,
(Your name)

Please see this link for the agenda:

Here is a copy of the proposed resolution:

For details on how to testify, see this link:


Tell HELCO to Renegotiate
In addition to the Committee meetings on Tuesday, the full council meeting agenda for Wednesday the 19th has been posted. The "HELCO renegotiate your contracts with PGV and all renewable energy producers" resolution is up again. 

See this link to view the agenda:

For details on how to testify, see:

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More About Geothermal Noise

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Those of us who reside near to Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) have experienced the most recent drilling which went on almost 24/7 for more than 120 days earlier this year (PGV originally intended to complete drilling in less than 90 days). The noise from the drilling has a huge impact on our daily lives and well-being, raising stress levels and compounded by loss of sleep. We do not know when the next drilling episode will be, but be sure that it will come because they need to re-drill the wells in order to maintain their contracted power output to HELCO. The proposed ban will ensure that at least our night-time will not be affected by the noise. 

We are aware that there are numerous plans by companies to develop more geothermal elsewhere in Puna (Opihikau, Pohoiki, Four Corners, Noni Farms Road and more..). This proposed night-time drilling restriction will ensure that any drilling that they do for exploratory or production wells cannot continue at night-time, or else are further than one mile from the nearest residence. 

It is important that we get this ordinance implemented, as there are no such limits on any of the geothermal permits (State or otherwise) that they must comply with. 

Night-time Noise in Hawai'i

The combination of the quiet rural environment, weather patterns (frequent night-time inversion layers) and the open nature of the buildings of many Hawai'i residences means that is is extremely difficult for industrial noise to be physically blocked from residences by the use of trees, berms or barriers.
Any noise mitigation has to be designed specifically for the combination of the noise-making equipment and the local environment and is it very costly to implement. In addition, noise mitigation is directional, which means that noise can not be reduced in all directions. 

Low-frequency Noise Effects

The problem of noise transmission is compounded by the fact that the physics of low-frequency noise propagation means that the intensity attenuates (reduces) very slowly with distance, thus low-frequency noise can often be discerned for miles, whereas the higher frequency noise does not travel so far. 

Another issue that can cause extreme discomfort for those neighbors is the fact that the frequency range of low-frequency noise corresponds to wavelengths that may match and resonate with building structures and even our physical body parts. These resonances can be very uncomfortable and even harmful, even though the sound waves are not within the audible spectrum. Drilling in particular is a noise source that can cause considerable aggravation, annoyance and disturbance in our local environment. 

Noise Zoning in Hawai'i

The zoning of land leased by PGV and the surrounding areas is Class C, which according to Hawai'i Administrative Rules Chapter 46 “Community Noise Control” includes all areas equivalent to lands zoned agriculture, country, industrial, or similar type. That same document states as its purpose (Paragraph 11-46-1):
“It is the purpose of this chapter to define the maximum permissible sound levels, and to provide for the prevention, control, and abatement of noise pollution in the State from the following excessive noise sources: stationary noise sources; and equipment related to agricultural, construction, and industrial activities. It is also the purpose of this chapter to establish noise quality standards to protect public health and welfare, and to prevent the significant degradation of the environment and quality of life” 
“Maximum permissible noise levels on C zoned areas is 70dBA, during both day or night” (page 8) 
(The rule for “A zoned” residential areas is 55dBA during day and 45dBA at night) 

The areas in Puna that are used (or planned for use) for geothermal are all C zoned agricultural areas. A large part of the noise coming from the drilling activities and the cooling fans in normal operation is low frequency noise. Low frequency noise propagates through the atmosphere with less attenuation than higher frequency noise which means that neighbors to the plant, both near and far are subjected to it. Although our ears are less sensitive to those low frequencies, we still feel it in our bodies, it keeps us awake, raises stress levels and is an ongoing nuisance. 

The A in “dB(A)” means that the measured noise spectrum has what is called “A weighting” which is supposed to match the human auditory response... but in doing so, it reduces the low frequency components of the measured spectrum by up to 70dB. 
From the World Health Organization Guidelines for Community Noise (p68): 
“The evidence on low-frequency noise is sufficiently strong to warrant immediate concern” 
“Health effects due to low frequency components in noise are estimated to be more severe than for community noises in general” 
“A” weighting underestimates the sound pressure level of low frequency components” 

Clearly, the Hawai'i State Department of Health rules are not sufficient to protect the well-being of Hawai'i County residents. 

Night-time Drilling Noise and Hawai'i County

The ordinance up for vote on September 18th is intended to protect residents from the negative effects of night-time drilling noise. It simplifies the “allowable levels”, by saying that night-time drilling is not allowed (with a one-mile set-back radius). Sound intensity levels measured by PGV on a consistent basis during recent drilling activities were up to 60dB(A) at their permit-mandated monitors, significantly higher than the 55/45dB(A) limits set by the State for residential areas. 
Hawai'i County does not have the resources to be monitoring drilling noise levels, and it should not be up to the driller to be self-monitoring. This simple ruling provides a well defined expectation for all parties and the result is consistent with rules and ordinances set out by a number other State and local city agencies in places such Colorado that address industrial drilling for gas and oil wells. 

Please join us in urging our Council representatives to address the issue of night-time drilling at the County Council Agriculture, Water & Energy Sustainability Committee meeting on September 18th. 

Further Reading

World Health Organization “Fundamentals of Acoustics” 
World Health Organization “Guidelines for community noise” 
“Aesthetic and Noise Control Regulations” Report of the Oil and Gas Commission of the State of Colorado, 2005 
“Potential Noise Issues with Geothermal Development in Hawai'i” John Burgess, University of Hawai'i, 1980
“Geothermal Noise Level Guidelines” County of Hawai'i Planning Department, 1981 

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Puna Pono Alliance
A Community group working for Puna and Hawai'i

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Puna Pono Alliance
RR2, Box 3311
Pahoa, Hawaii 96778

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