Category Archives: Zoning and Land Uses

Issues around zoning and land use, and the Planning Department

POSITION PAPER of the Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance


A sustainable community (SC) consists of one or more households that share a location and the conscious intention to be self-reliant, resilient, resource-conserving, equitable, and ecologically restorative—while providing a good quality of life for community members and future generations.

(A household is here defined as two or more people who share a shelter system that includes facilities for eating, sleeping, bathing, and gathering.)

The members of an SC

  • cooperate with each other and with neighbors, for the accomplishment of shared purposes.
  • are responsible and accountable to each other, to neighbors, and to the larger world for the consequences of how they live.
  • steward valuable resources for the benefit of future as well as present generations.

A Sustainable Community:

  • provides many of its basic/subsistence needs (water, food, clothing, shelter, energy, waste management) on site, using primarily local resources (human/natural/financial).
  • reuses or recycles almost all of its “wastes.”
  • is prepared for natural and other emergencies.
  • promotes and aims for income, gender, and intergenerational equity.
  • restores and regenerates degraded eco-systems, while ensuring that land use, building, transportation and other systems are minimally damaging to the biosphere.
  • offers learning opportunities to all ages about the challenges and technologies of living sustainably.
  • is part of a global community: Most SCs have and utilize access to the internet, hence to neighbors, each other, the world, and the global information base.

Why do people choose sustainable community?

The sustainable community movement is leading the way to a new era of more productive, innovative, resource conserving, energy efficient living systems.

Most creators and members of Sustainable Communities (SCs) are motivated, at least partly, by discontent with the standard modern consumerist lifestyle.

Large, complex, centralized, 20th century industrial systems continue to become less functional and less reliable, climate change continues, food (along with water) is becoming the “new gold,” and energy is becoming more and more scarce and expensive.

SC members seek something that is more communal, more ecologically restorative, less auto dependent, less money-oriented, more democratic and equitable, closer to nature, cleaner, healthier, and more spiritually fulfilling.

Most SC members seek economic independence through self-reliance that gives insulation from unreliable financial/labor markets and from the decisions of distant corporations and governments—meanwhile inventing and building alternative local provisioning systems and cultures.

SC’s want to leave our children with an inheritance of functioning, multi-purpose living systems that are capable of surviving and thriving in the 21st century.

SC’s provide friendship and support, and are an answer to the isolation and loneliness of a modern culture built of broken families and traditions.

SC’s support a network of people competent in the operation of alternative, appropriate technologies.

SCs build wealth in the form of functional, productive, efficient and equitable living systems that are strong foundational units of healthy, vibrant neighborhoods, towns, and regions.

This includes

* human/social resources (health, knowledge, skills, relationships, organization, education);

* built resources (appropriately-scaled subsistence infrastructure and technologies for energy and water harvesting, food production, waste recycling, etc.);

* and natural resources of their local ecosystems (soil fertility, vegetation, wildlife).

Summary of the BENEFITS  provided by SC living systems

Food security

External security

On-site productivity

Resource conservation (water, energy, materials)

Employment opportunities

Educational opportunities/outcomes/potential


Healthy environment for children and elderly

Help with child raising

Health care/maintenance

Internal communication

Internal sharing

Communication/cooperation with neighbors

Sharing with neighbors

Saving money by pooling resources

Sharing tools and buildings

Caring for the environment- soil, water, air


What happened to HB111? in 2013

On March 21, the Senate Water and Land and Public Safety Committees held a joint hearing on the Sustainable Living Research Act bill. They voted to defer it. This means the bill is no longer alive this session. Senator Malama Solomon, the Water and Land Committee Chair acknowledged the substantial amount of written testimony in support of the bill. Elizabeth Dunne, an environmental attorney who has been helping the Alliance with the bill’s language and lobbying efforts, provided live testimony in support and answered committee members’ questions.

While the legislators supported the concept, they were ultimately concerned about a number of issues raised by the counties who testified in opposition. County of Hawaii’s Planning Director, who testified in person against the bill, cited concerns about enforcement and liability and questioned whether the planning department was the best entity to administer the permit process.

The great news is that we got pretty far this year — through all the House committees!!

This means that the bill will start in the Senate next year. Moving forward, we need to: (1) further engage the planning departments of all counties to address their concerns about the sustainable living research site act permit process; (2) continue to educate the legislators on this important issue; (3) build a network of supporters on all islands; and (4) work on the language of the bill to best achieve our objectives while accounting for the concerns raised by interested parties.


What is the status of HB111

Dear Ones,

Thanks all for your work with this site.  I was just newly directed to it today by Terra of the Hawaiian Sanctuary.

I have a large parcel of land, 84 acres, near Leilani yet under current laws and because of county water regulations it can have only one home on it.

Will someone(s) please post the status of HB111 since public comment ended on 3/21/2013?

I can find nothing on this site or on the government linked web site?

From over an hour reading articles and posts on your site and the government HB111 pages, it sounds like if HB111 is approved then the 84 acres could be parceled into 15 acre sections to meet the requirement of this Bill.  If this bill has passed the house does it have to go through the senate?  Regulations be written and signed it to law?  How long might this process take?  I know next to nothing of government processes.

Mahalo Nui,

Uncle Chucka



Sustainable Living Resolution, October 2nd

The Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance is working towards amending current laws to allow more eco-friendly practices, communities and buildings.

This resolution (302-12) urges the Hawaii State Legislature enact legislation to establish Sustainable Living Research Sites on parcels less than 15 acres that are designated “agricultural” under state law in Hawaii. It would allow applicants to request exemptions from County Codes for approved sustainable living research activities.

This would provide a way for people to come into compliance, and be able to learn about new ways of living that are ecological. They could work on how to: conserve and harvest fresh water; conserve and improve topsoil without expensive or toxic inputs; increase local food quality and security using organic methods and local materials; increase biodiversity and protect wildlife; provide onsite waste treatment and recycling with minimal or zero air and surface or ground water pollution, and many other techniques.

Why did the Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance propose the Sustainable Living test sites on parcels up to 15 acres? A number of you have asked us this. We put that in our resolution because the County council only has jurisdiction over parcels of up to 15 acres. Over that size, the State Land Use Bureau in Oahu has to make the decisions. So our resolution is only for the county level. Please email or come and testify that you like this proposal, but you would rather have it apply to larger parcels. We would like to change the wording to be “parcels more than one acre”. We need your help to ask for that change. Thanks ! Amara


Concerns About Geothermal- a Summary

Concerns about geothermal:

 from Beth McCormick

1) Putting the state’s energy source in a Lava Zone 1 is a recipe for disaster. “The possibility of an eruption in the geothermal resource or state-wide cable path within any 50-year period is between 60 and 90 percent.” [15] The Chain of Craters Road, which has been repeatedly covered by lava, and Royal Gardens Subdivision, where hundreds of homes have been lost to lava flows, are examples of Volcanic Hazard Zone 1.  The effect of an eruption could be severe, if the geothermal well or the undersea cable were buried by lava. The power generated by the geothermal facility would be lost—possibly for months, or even years.  Honolulu could be crippled, if these plans go through and they become dependent on geothermal. [15,18]

2) Economics.  Costs for the undersea cable to take that energy to Oahu are expected to exceed $10 billion (not counting drilling or building the plants themselves.)  That amount of money could put a solar hot water system on every roof in the state.  Hot water takes 39% of the typical household water use, so that would be a sizable reduction in energy use without using geothermal.  Under normal circumstances the geothermal investment would make no sense, but HELCO is a monopoly with a profit legislated by the government. Their financial incentive is the opposite of a normal business, which seeks to do things efficiently.  For HELCO, the more money they spend, the more money they get, since consumers are forced to pay the bill.  This boondoggle will increase the cost of living in Hawaii. [16]  Whether you own land, rent, or just visit Hawaii, you’ll be paying for this foolhardy expense. 


3Toxic emissions.  A mixture of nasty chemicals are released, and the small existing PGV well has produced emissions that exceeded a lethal dose for humans.  There have been 18 civil defense emergencies because of this one small well, and the well blowout in 1991 necessitated evacuating people from their homes.  The industry standard is a buffer zone with a 10 mile radius around a geothermal well.  “There are about 3,900 residential lots within a one-mile radius of the [small existing PGV] plant.” [20] Now they want twenty new geothermal wells here? This will completely change the character of the area from rural to industrial, threatening thousands of properties. 


4) Possibility of a “wild well.”  Since this is an area of constant tremors, it is possible for the well casing to rupture in an earthquake, causing an unrestricted flow of emissions or lava.  The geology here is different from other places where geothermal has been utilized.  Drilling at the small PGV well hit magma several years ago,[3] which came partway up the well shaft, and it’s very easy to imagine the possibility of starting an eruption that would not stop.  This is “by far the shallowest and hottest encounter of rock in a commercial operation.”[14] In 1977 an eruption was triggered in Iceland, when “magma erupted out the top of a producing geothermal well… in Krafla, Iceland.” [31]

Geothermal drilling has created a ‘wild well’ in California, in the Geysers Wild Horse area, “which emits about 306,000 lb./yr. of hydrogen sulfide (8.2% of the Geyser’s total). Efforts to stop these emissions have proven unsuccessful. Uncontrolled blowouts have the potential to vent up to 55,000 lb./hr. of geothermal steam and its pollutants into the surrounding environment.  Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is one of the more notorious toxins resultant from geothermal operations. It and lesser amounts of other sulfuric forms have been broadly disseminated as aerosols across areas surrounding geothermal development, especially along lines of prevailing wind patterns. H2S becomes sulfur dioxide (SO2) through oxidation. Both forms are hazardous to plant and animal life.”[1]


5)  Health effects “Workers at various geothermal facilities have experienced severe health impairing consequences from geothermal emissions exposure. Abnormally high occupational incidences of heart attacks, respiratory ailments, major liver damage, bodily disfigurement, lung scarring, pulmonary disease, high blood pressure, and damage to various internal organs have been reported. Workers have experienced bloody noses, chronic coughs, and other respiratory problems, headaches, stomach ailments, eye irritations, sluggishness, dizziness, vomiting, and a persistent skin rash they’ve named the ‘creeping Geysers crud.’ Doctors, including Dr. Philip Rasonri of Healdsburg, Ca, have concluded the symptoms workers have experienced indicate short-term chemical poisoning… The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA), deposits of arsenic and vanadium dust were found after a malfunction in the steam cleaning process. The arsenic tests showed concentrations of 430 ppm – over two times the state’s safety standard. Vanadium, for which test results showed concentrations of 4,200 ppm, had no set safety standard, though it is a known toxin. While cleaning up a chemical spill resulting from the malfunction, twenty-four workers developed nosebleeds, nausea, and other illness symptoms.”[1]


6) Geothermal wells can cause earthquakes. “Discussion needs to be open about how exploitation of Earth’s internal heat can produce earthquakes.” [26] “Studies conducted by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey concluded that geothermal power production induces seismicity. One of the possible means is that re-injection of the spent fluids, which is generally done at a deeper level than the original tapping well, lubricates the different fault line plates as well as altering the pressure upon them, causing them to “slip.” Another theory is that tapping the geothermal reservoirs depletes the pressure built up underground causing the plates to shift. Perhaps both of these factors work synergistically to cause minor quakes of 3.5 to 4.0 on the Richter scale. The Geysers area has experienced quakes of these magnitudes that have been associated with geothermal production. Geothermal production areas in Mammoth Lakes, California have also experienced “swarms” of quakes. Studies are ongoing attempting to further understand the correlation between commercial geothermal energy production and tectonic activity. One indicator has been notable land subsidence in the areas above geothermal reservoirs.” [1,12]


7) Geothermal can poison the groundwater, hence, the ocean.  “Possible stream, ground water, and aquifer contamination are additional environmental problems resulting from geothermal production. Toxic contaminant harms can occur through mishaps in production processes, as well inherent potential due to the complexity of geologic features and production requirements. Reinjection is one danger area wherein potential exists for fluids to enter an underground aquifer. Another is that of well pipeline rupture or other production fluid leakage. Fluids could escape and enter area streams and ground water, poisoning aquatic fauna and area plants. To counter this, the plant at Mammoth Lakes has spill containment basins, dikes, gates and shut off valves. However one fault of all these systems remains the potential for a major quake, which is especially high in these tectonically active areas, occurring sometime with in the projected 30 years use-time of the plant. Speculation remains despite industry assurances to the contrary, that ‘fail safe’ spill prevention systems remain as fragile as glass built upon a herd of sleeping buffalo. The large quantity of fluid flowing through the pipes (at Mammoth it is 300,000 gallons per hour) coupled with the possibility of the structural integrity of the facilities, spill containment ponds, dikes, and gates being compromised by the force of a quake – where these are no longer able to fulfill to their intended function; the potential for ecological disaster is relatively high. Generally the industry operates under the assumption that plant personnel will be able to respond to leaks within minutes. In an

emergency situation this may be very likely prove implausible. If gates are so damaged they cannot shut, and/or dikes are breached, geothermal fluids with all their toxins would flow unabated into surrounding area waterways, soils, and aquifers.”[1]


8)  Geothermal generates toxic waste solids.  “Yet another probability of ground water contamination exists: geothermal sludge. Geothermal sludge is composed of geothermal fluids, oils, and drilling muds; containing sulfur compounds as well as arsenic, other toxins, and heavy metals. Sludge is stored in sumps on the site, which could potentially fail contaminating surrounding streams and ecosystems. Plans to solidify sump contents, becoming part of the soil or subsoil ignore the long-term effects of the release of geothermal sludge’s toxic components through erosion and precipitation.”[1]


9) Shady Land Deal.  “In 1990, plans to construct a major geothermal plant in a Hawaiian rainforest resulted in considerable environmental opposition. The proposed area, near the Puna volcano, has a geothermal fluid H2S content six times that of the Geysers, at 1,300 ppm concentration. The area is one of extreme geological instability. Yet the project was being pushed through by big industry with government help. The unstable nature of the volcanically active area is a cause of significant concern. The area first being considered for geothermal production was inundated by new lava flows following test drilling. The lava covered 25,000 acres destroying former rainforest and burying the original proposed geothermal site. Many of the Hawaiians feel that the volcanic lava flows were triggered by the drilling of geothermal wells. The government response was to “trade” 27,000 acres of public rainforest trust lands to the geothermal development company in exchange for the lava covered devastated lands. The area traded is the ‘last original rainforest within the U.S.’ It was to be held in public trust to protect the native Hawaiian plants and fauna as well for public use. However the public is now forbidden entrance.” [1]


10) Lava tube land weakens well casings, potentially causing leaks.  “Some of the initial Puna test wells had to be suspended when workers tapped into volcanic lava tubes and attempts to plug geothermal leaks through the passages were unsuccessful. Being able to regulate dispersal of reinjected geothermal effluent as planned may prove implausible in these areas. The ‘highly fractured’ nature of subsurface formations also carries the potential for contamination of ground waters aquifers. Well bores are equipped with casings cemented to the subsurface formations designed to prevent this. However fractures within the formations put stress upon the cemented castings and can result in their failure. By 1990, three… wells had already experienced leakage from casing failures. A casing leak at ground water level was found in one of these wells in addition to two other leaks at split and separated casings. This leakage was

occurring very early in this planned geothermal plants’ projected operating time of thirty years. The likelihood of more leaks due to stresses on cement bonds over time is significantly greater.” The development of geothermal energy production in such an unstable volcanically active geological area carries the potential for ground water contamination and severe impacts upon the health of the surrounding environment. 


11)  Venting is allowed that exceeds the fatal dose to humans.  “While H2S emissions are regulated, required to be no more than 0.03 ppm, provisions exist that weaken this requirement. First, while drilling, geothermal contractors are permitted to vent up to 500 ppm of H2S into the atmosphere. This is 5 to 10 times above the inhalation irritation threshold and over 1,666 times the level at which H2S causes damage to sensitive plants (0.30 ppm). The fatal exposure level for H2S is 700 ppm, however, concentrations above 500 ppm can result in respiratory paralysis leading to death. Only if emissions are found to be above 500 ppm, are contractors required to notify air pollution control districts, after which they have twenty-four hours to act before they need to either close the well or install air pollution abatement equipment. 

Yet another loophole is permissible sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions levels. H2S gas oxidizes in a 12 to 18 hour period becoming SO2 as it is exposed to air. The permissible limit for SO2 is up to 1000 ppm, yet over 400 ppm of SO2 can be fatal. The irritation threshold is only 3ppm, respiratory irritation occurs at 1 to 10 ppm and 0.3 ppm for 8 hours is toxic to plants.

This calls into question who these permissible levels are intended to protect? The surrounding environment, workers, community, and animals

– or the uninterrupted economic production interests of geothermal commercial ventures? Why are these permissible levels set 2 ½ times higher than the level fatal to human life? Why are they set over 3,333 times higher than the level toxic to surrounding plants?”[1]


12) Hydrogen Sulfide is much more dangerous than was previously known. . H2S is classed as a chemical asphyxiant, similar to carbon monoxide and cyanide gases. It inhibits cellular respiration and uptake of oxygen, causing biochemical suffocation.

“At high concentrations (500-1,000 parts per million [ppm]), hydrogen sulfide acts primarily as a systemic poison, causing unconsciousness and death by respiratory paralysis. At lower concentrations (50-500 ppm),it acts as a respiratory irritant, which can lead to pulmonary edema upon exposure to concentrations in excess of 250 ppm. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide concentrations of 20-50 ppm may cause eye irritation and conjunctivitis. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established an occupational standard of 10 ppm in the workplace.” [20, 23, 24] “EPA has determined that hydrogen sulfide can reasonably be anticipated to cause serious or irreversible chronic human health effects at relatively low doses and thus is considered to have moderately high to high chronic toxicity.” [5] Prolonged exposures at lower levels can lead to bronchitis, pneumonia, migraine headaches, pulmonary edema, and loss of motor coordination. [28] “The precautionary principle recommends that smelling this gas is a warning that should be heeded by people to evacuate quickly.” [29]  These gases are heavier than air, but rather than putting monitors at ground level, the air quality monitors surrounding the existing PGV plant were put 6-10 feet above the ground, which obviously led to a lower report of emissions.


13) We’re close enough to get the effects of the “fallout.” “Particles of these toxic chemicals are carried from the geothermal emission source, rising with the prevailing wind currents. Those particles, ranging between 5 and 15 microns, generally fall out within 1 to 5 miles. Between .5 to 5 microns they remain airborne for longer periods, allowing chemical reactions to occur changing the nature of the substance (H2S to SO2 to sulfuric acid). Smaller particles ranging from .1 to .5 microns or less remain airborne “indefinitely.” These particles can enter the body through the respiratory system. Those less than 1 to 2 microns can penetrate deep into the respiratory tract and are readily absorbed into the blood stream through lung tissue. Some of these substances, such as mercury, accumulate without being eliminated. Hydrogen sulfide emissions tend to be in the penetrating smaller-size particles.”[1]



14) It’s a myth that geothermal has been safe elsewhere.  This is a far more polluting kind of geothermal than the “clean steam” geothermal done in California, yet still, geothermal is not the safe energy source it is portrayed to be. 

“A $60 million project to extract renewable energy from the hot bedrock deep beneath Basel, Switzerland, was shut down after a government study determined that earthquakes generated by the project were likely to do millions of dollars in damage each year, the New York Times reported. The project was first suspended in 2006 after it generated earthquakes that caused about $9 million in damage to other structures.” [22] “The Times covered the abandonment of a similar project by AltaRock Energy, outside San Francisco, which was attempting to extract vast amounts of renewable energy from deep, hot bedrock.” [22]

“Adults exposed to low levels of a toxic gas released by natural and industrial sources may experience wheezing, coughing and asthma attacks that require medication, finds a three-year study in Iceland. This is one of the first studies to find a connection between hydrogen sulfide – best known for its rotten egg smell – and respiratory health effects.” [29]

“In 1990, Mt. Apo in the Philippines was another site for a geothermal plant being opposed by area residents. The plant was planned within a park regarded “as one of the richest botanical mountains in the region. It is also the last major habitat for the endangered Philippine eagle. The area known as the Bac-Man Project planned thirty or more geothermal wells. Stack source measurements for H2S emissions found 990 ppm; 290 ppm over the fatal threshold limit, and many times the 40 ppm for 5 hours damage to sensitive plants. Well sites are expected to significantly impact the area’s forest; disturbing natural habitat and adversely affecting the region’s fauna’s ability to survive. Another geothermal project, the “Southern Negros”, released spent drill

fluids, injuring fish and shrimp within the area’s river. Effluents containing arsenic are projected in quantities that pose a danger to aquatic fauna. Gayong River’s health as an ecosystem has declined rapidly since the drilling started in the early 1980’s. By 1990 it appeared to be “close to the point of biological death.” Long-term operation of planned geothermal plants is expected to result in the cumulative build up of heavy metals and other toxins in the area’s rivers and seacoast. The consequent absorption of geothermal toxins into the food chain would adversely affect the fishing-dependant coastal population, as well as the fish themselves. Area farmers are also expected to suffer from geothermal toxic emissions, many of which are harmful to plants. As in Hawaii as of 1990, local oppositions to these projects was considerable.”[1, 19]


15) Injecting the toxins back into the earth contaminates water.

“Over the past several decades, U.S. industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad expanses of the nation’s geology as an invisible dumping ground.  No company would be allowed to pour such dangerous chemicals into the rivers or onto the soil. But until recently, scientists and environmental officials have assumed that deep layers of rock beneath the earth would safely entomb the waste for millennia.

There are growing signs they were mistaken.

Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation’s drinking water.

In 2010, contaminants from such a well bubbled up in a west Los Angeles dog park. Within the past three years, similar fountains of oil and gas drilling waste have appeared in Oklahoma and Louisiana. In South Florida, 20 of the nation’s most stringently regulated disposal wells failed in the early 1990s, releasing partly treated sewage into aquifers that may one day be needed to supply Miami’s drinking water.

There are more than 680,000 underground waste and injection wells nationwide, more than 150,000 of which shoot industrial fluids thousands of feet below the surface. Scientists and federal regulators acknowledge they do not know how many of the sites are leaking.”


16) Geothermal kills plants in surrounding areas. “Climatic induced change by steam emissions increased the air temperature, cloudiness and humidity of the area. This induced change has been shown to be responsible “for fungal disease and branch die off in black oaks” at the Geysers.”[1]



17)  It’s a myth that geothermal will lead to cheaper electric rates. The customers will have to pay for this bad investment.  “Hawai`i county not only has the highest utility rates in the nation, it has held that record for decades, in spite of 20% of our power coming from geothermal. HECO has already started to experience a decline (in the number of people on the grid) and has to be acutely aware that it could escalate. In the past few years the rate of solar installations within Hawai`i has doubled each year. The number of renewable energy developers who have made proposals to the utility for large-scale grid-connected renewable energy projects has gone up ten-fold. The increasing use of various energy efficiency systems is also driving down the demand for electricity. HECO, and its subsidiaries Maui Electric (MECO) and Hawaii Electric Light (HELCO), experienced peak energy use in 2004. Since then the demand for electricity has been dropping.

This mechanism states that the utility is entitled to a certain level of revenue, and as sales drop they can automatically increase rates to keep their revenue on target. The PUC has already approved this mechanism.”[6]


18) Better options exist.  Hawaii will be less energy-resilient with geothermal, since the state’s power supply could be crippled.  With ample sunshine, it makes sense for solar generation to be localized. 

19) The US is falling behind the rest of the world in solar energy technology.  “Germany’s power industry has always been a world leader, but since the country closed eight nuclear power plants after the Japanese disaster and announced they would be shutting down the remaining nine by 2022, pressure to find alternative energy has mounted. Other sources such as wind and biomass are expected to pick up the slack, but solar power has never been more important./  The U.S. put a 31% tariff on Chinese solar panels and states are cutting the solar incentive programs. If the U.S. and Hawaii were seriousabout getting off oil they would instead buy all the cheap solar and install it. Even if China was dumping panels the government should have simply bought them all, installed them and gotten off oil.[8]  The United States Department of Commerce imposed extreme tariffs on China-made solar panels and modules of between 31% and 250%, making them much less affordable for U.S. consumers. Commerce took the additional extraordinary step of making the tariffs

retroactive for 90 days to prevent U.S businesses and homeowners from getting a decent price on the basis that their local dealer/installer bought panels before the date of their decision. Solar in this country just got a lot more expensive and the 100,000 domestic solar industry jobs (mostly installing and servicing) created over the last five years are now at risk. Also, oil, coal and gas suddenly can remain price competitive with solar in the U.S. for far longer than market forces would otherwise dictate. Longer term, it could make the U.S. may the last dirty, expensive, fossil-fuels/geothermal based economic backwater economy in the developed world.” [11]


20)  There is no sane reason why Hawaii should lag the nation in solar installations. “Hawaii’s goal of energy independence is growing closer, with the state’s solar installations rising 45 percent in first quarter 2012 over the same period last year, as noted in a recent Star-Advertiser article. In only three months, Hawaii homeowners and businesses installed another 14.8 mega-watts of solar generating capacity.   But though blessed with sunlight, Hawaii lagged far behind the average 85 percent national increase. New Jersey, not known for its sun, added an astounding 174 MW of solar installations — nearly 12 times Hawaii’s increase.  Hawaii’s comparatively slow gain results from Hawaiian Electric Co. limiting solar to 15 percent per circuit, pleading that further increases will destabilize the grid. But this is a false, self-serving argument: On Kauai, not served by HECO, some circuits are at 100 percent solar penetration with no impact on the grid.”[13]

21)  Hawaii has enough air quality issues already. With an eruption that has been ongoing for decades, the last thing we need is to add a potentially lethal cocktail of chemicals released into the air.  Kona’s air quality will be enormously impacted by geothermal development in Puna… or on Hualalai volcano.  Because of the inversion layer in the atmosphere, poisonous emissions will stay in the air above Kona for extended periods of time.  “During operation of the geothermal wells, gases may be released to the atmosphere [including] carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and trace amounts of 222radon. The emission of hydrogen sulfide gas is considered to be the most important tpublic health problem related to the operation of these geothermal wells. Since hydrogen sulfide is heavier than air, it can accumulate in low-lying areas during temperature inversions or when prevailing trade winds are calm.” [20]

22) Sacrificing the sustainable for the unsustainable is the height of folly.  Puna is an area where many people grow their own food, catch their own water, and generate their own solar power.  This should become an example for the rest of the islands, rather than an industrial wasteland sacrificed to benefit the urban center of Honolulu.  While none of us is entirely independent, and we all are interrelated, such a promising example of self-sufficiency should not be destroyed.

23) Kona could be severely impacted by their geothermal wells, as well as by those in Puna.  Hualalai volcano is potentially dangerous because its lava is so fast flowing.  Lava was reported to flow from 5000 ft to the ocean in 2 hours, last time it erupted.  A geothermal disaster above Kona could be deadly.

24) Legislative foul play.  Since the consumers will be footing the bill for HELCO’s lousy investment, which stands to make the cost of living here even higher, we ought to have a say in the decision.  But Act 55 and the Public Land Development Corporation have created an “end run” at the state level to avoid local control, state taxes, and the normal planning and permitting process.  Instead, only one hearing is needed, held in Honolulu, with only 6 days notice.  PLDC, which has been dubbed “grand theft aina,” is a mechanism for State and Ceded lands to be developed by private corporations.  Not only is there a bailout clause so that the public bears the financial risk, but neighboring landowners can be forced to pay for costly improvements, or face losing their lands.  This is a truly bad piece of legislation that needs to be repealed. 

25The cable itself is an economic as well as environmental threat.  Massachusetts studied, and ultimately rejected undersea cables using the same technology as a “high-risk” installation, too expensive to construct, with too many severe environmental impacts and too difficult to maintain.” “The Governor’s and HECO’s proposed multi-billion-dollar interisland cable would substantially increase Hawaii electric rates and taxes. It would be constructed through the Hawaii Humpback Whale National Sanctuary, the world-famous Molokai Reef, and the Penguin Banks, one of the most significant marine environments in the Pacific. No environmental or economic analyses of this project have been done, and the Governor is attempting to exclude it from such studies and public review.” [17]



26)  The noise is horrendous.  Ask anyone who’s lived near the geothermal drilling, with the noise pounding them 24/7. 

1. From the Oregon Sierra Club  <>








































What Exactly is the Problem with PLDC? Where do we begin?

comments on proposed administrative rules for Public Land Development Corporation

for hearing Monday, August 20, 2012, 6 PM, Waiakea High School Cafeteria, Hilo

by Cory Harden, PO Box 10265, Hilo, Occupied Hawai’i 96721  808-968-8965



The “21st Century Mahele”. That’s what some people are calling PLDC. PLDC was snuck into a bill at the tail end of a State legislative session with no chance for public testimony. Senators Solomon and Dela Cruz want to use PLDC to support geothermal and building in rural areas. 


Hawai’i has other quasi-governmental development agencies, like the Hawai’i Community Development Authority and Aloha Tower Development Corporation. They have a poor track record of repeated problems.


PLDC is jumping the gun, perhaps illegally, on two counts.

·         First, PLDC is acting on projects even though these rules are not finalized. That means no direction on how PLDC operates, and no criteria for selecting projects-a perfect setup for sweetheart deals.


·         Second, PLDC is acting on projects before doing an inventory, as required, of all public lands.


Under the most appalling draft rules, these scenarios are allowed:

·         PLDC can take land and terminate leases. 302-27(9), 303-38


·         There’s only one hearing, with only six days’ notice, at the Board of Land and Natural Resources, for leases, and transferring land and development rights, from the state to private entities. 


·         Projects can ignore state and county land use designations, zoning ordinances, building codes;  community development plans; and other legal requirements. 302-27 (10) (12) (15)


·         Neighbors of projects can be forced to install costly underground utilities on just 30 days’ notice. If they don’t, state or private workers can come on their property and do the work. The project neighbor gets the bill and just 30 days to pay. If they don’t, the state requires installment payments. If those aren’t made, there’s a penalty, and PLDC can put a lien on the property. You’d need a lawyer to contest anything. 303-11, 303-12, 303-21, 303-24, 303-25, 303-53, 303-54,



·         Project neighbors can be also forced to build and fix sidewalks.


·         Decisions can be made by just two PLDC members meeting behind closed doors. (Instead, four should be required for a vote to meet in executive session, and for a quorum. 301-6 , 301-9)


·         Taxpayer money will bankroll private development (issuing bonds, investing for seed capital, providing grants and loans and other monetary assistance, buying securities to assist developers) 302-52, 302-61)


·         PLDC can invest more than half a million dollars in a private enterprise, and can own more than half of the enterprise. 302-63, 302-68


In short, PLDC seriously oversteps the bounds of government. It sells out the ‘aina, the culture, and the people to local and transnational corporations. PLDC should be abolished.







More than half of Hawai’i’s people want more land preservation, not more development, according to a recent Civil Beat poll.


There should be a mechanism to evaluate the cumulative impact of multiple projects done by PLDC and others.


Criteria for selecting projects should be more specific to avoid bribes, favoritism, and other devious actions.


PLDC should be required to get county input on proposals.


PLDC should be sure there is legal access to adequate water for projects.


The presiding officer for a hearing should be an independent hearing officer, not the chairperson or their representative. 301-2


There should be a right to hearing if an action or decision for a remote area, like Mauna Kea or a forest reserve, affects the public in general. 301-51 (b)


Developers who have been sanctioned or who broke the law-especially ethical, environmental, land use, safety, labor, or civil rights laws-should be prohibited from working with PLDC. 302-24


PLDC should be required to do hearings on the affected island re. proposals.   302-28


At least three public meetings near the affected area should be held for proposals for coastal lands.



PLDC should be required to hold developers to promises. This will address PLDC’s conflict of interest if developers break promises, since PLDC will lose money if a project fails. Past broken promises: Hokulia, Ko Olina, Haseko ‘Ewa Maine, Knudsen’s Village, Turtle Bay. 302-32


Projects should “not unduly burden existing water systems, sewage and other waste disposal systems, transportation systems, roadway, drainage, street lighting, open spaces, parks, and other recreational areas, public utilities, and public services” or should include “as part of the proposed project, the development of such systems, facilities, and services at reasonable cost”  302-35 (8)


Projects should have no significant impact under the National Environmental Policy Act. 302-35 (8)


PLDC should research the environmental and legal record of each enterprise. 302-65


PLDC should not assist developers with fees. 302-68


Counties should not face unexpected burdens from improvements built by PLDC and transferred to the county. 303-40


Counties and water departments should not be required to pay for water and sewer connections, roads, sidewalks, street lights, and other improvements.  303-40, 303-41


Water departments should not face unexpected burdens from improvements built by PLDC and transferred to the departments. 303-41




Don’t allow unchecked development of Public lands

Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2012 22:58:52 -1000


From: Amara Karuna <>

Subject: Love the Land, Use your voice ASAP- pls forward

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If you love Hawaii, and want to protect our public lands from unsupervised commercial and energy development – it’s the time to say so!   Even if you usually never get politically involved… the land needs your voice now.


This can affect your neighborhood… please read!


Please forward this to all your friends on all the islands- it affects everyone.

See below on how to voice your opinions.


Is This A Good Idea?

A corporation for development of public lands, exempt from taxes, zoning, building or land use laws?

Report by Amara Karuna

Monday, August 20th, 2012


Should businesses get out of following all those pesky laws that we locals have to?

Should they be able to build what they want without getting comments from the neighbors?   And then charge the costs to the people living nearby?   And not pay any state taxes at all?

And who really owns those public lands anyway?  Does the state really have the authority to give them away or do they belong to the Hawaiian people?  And who decides what projects happen, under what criteria?

These are only a few of the questions raised by the passing of Act 55, which created a corporation to encourage private development on our public lands.  This bill was rushed through the Hawaii State government in record time… it took only 3 days to vote it in and sign it.  There was no time for public commentary.

Over 100 concerned citizens of all kinds attended a meeting in Hilo on Monday, to give feedback on the proposed administrative guidelines under which the Public Lands Development Corporation (“PLDC”) is to operate.

Every person testifying was strongly against of what is being proposed, and many spoke with heartfelt depth and well considered points.  It was one of the most inspiring political gatherings I have ever witnessed.  There was a tangible feeling of solidarity and fierce protectiveness of our beautiful home.  If you are feeing intimidated and overwhelmed by the politics on your island, try attending one of these for support.  I felt proud to be living here with these strong, dedicated, spiritually aware people.


This was only the first of several public hearings that are being held, and I urge you to take the time to go to the ones on your island, and to send your opinion in writing, and to encourage all your friends to also do so.  As one woman said, “Don’t get angry, get busy!”

There is a bill being proposed to repeal this legislation.  Let’s put our power behind that.


The rocks, trees, oceans and creatures cannot speak for themselves.  We are their voice.


We have until Sept 14th to comment… please send your testimony sooner than later.



Hearing Schedule:


August 21 (6:00 p.m.) Kona (Konawaena High School Cafeteria)

August 24 (6:00 p.m.) Maui (Maui Waena Intermediate School Cafeteria)

August 27 (6:00 p.m.) Molokai (Mitchell Pauole Community Center)

August 29 (6:00 p.m.) Oahu (Dept. of Land and Natural Resources Kalanimoku Building, Room 132)

August 31 (6:00 p.m.) Kauai (Elsie H. Wilcox Elementary School)


Can’t make it to these hearings? Please send your comments via written testimony to PLDC, P.O. Box 2359, Honolulu, HI 96804, prior to Sept 14.


Make testimony brief, only a few sentences, and to the point.  Try to keep comments non-abusive and rational in language.


Please ask the “PLDC” to improve their draft administrative rules, which currently don’t adequately protect our environment, neighborhoods, and cultural traditions.


Email comments accepted prior to Sept 14 at – <> and  for those who are unable to provide in-person testimony.



So, you want the details?

State moves towards privatization and development of public lands without regard to zoning or land use laws


From the Sierra Club:


Tell the PLDC to protect OUR public land for future generations!


The PLDC can exempt development projects from normal oversight. The upcoming hearings are a terrific opportunity to ask the PLDC to establish common sense protections that protect our beaches, parks, and schools from greedy developers and development projects.

171C-19, (quoted below) is exempt from many requirements that affect other developers.


The PLDC is a vehicle to facilitate development on public land by providing special favors such as state money and permit avoidance.


The rules, as written, don’t require hearings on the Big Island, for example, if the PLDC wants to do a project on the island, Harris said. Nor would the corporation’s governing board be required to get the county’s input on any proposal, he added.  “Right now, they can essentially ignore the county,” Harris said.


When legislators were first discussing creating the corporation, people in support made vague promises that no “bad projects” would be approved, Harris said. The rules don’t spell out what kind of projects the corporation may pursue, nor do the rules give specific criteria for approving projects, he said. That is another cause for worry, he added.


The rules require, among other things, for counties to bear the cost of improvements in areas the corporation deems assessment areas and for county water supply boards to bear the cost of water improvements. The rules would allow the corporation to require “abutting property owners at their expense to construct, maintain and repair sidewalks and curbs in front of the abutting property.”  If the PLDC requires utility lines to be moved, neighboring property owners must then pay for new connections to the lines.


The proposed rules changes are available at The public may request a written copy of the rules by writing to the PLDC at PO Box 2359, Honolulu, Hawaii 96804.




In January of 2011 Samuel J. Lemmo, the Administrator for OCCL, Office of conservation and coastal lands gave a presentation about changes that they were making within conservation lands. This changes were marked as Sub-zones in the conservation lands.


“There will be many reasons given to sacrifice our pubic lands for all kinds of destructive activities such as drilling for water, geothermal and anything else they can make money off of as well as pushing too develop these lands for commercial purposes with little public or county meaningful input or participation.


This will spread and speed the destructive kind of developments we have seen particularly on Oahu and Maui like never before. Expediting the degradation of our remaining precious natural environment and way of life . The roads alone they make for these projects, wells and developments as we have see all over the Hawaiian islands are a huge threat to our remaining native forest.


Developments DNR has permitted in the past and will be pushing for now and in the future have devastated our forest, beaches, coastline, and other natural areas for corporate interest, the PDC will further and speed the progressive destruction of our environment.”



More from Robert:


Once the rules are made it will be much harder to object as they will argue this was your chance to be heard…..It is not just geothermal, it’s ammonia factories, hydrogen manufacturing, ocean strip mining, space ports or anything else they can come up with.


They want to charge you for improvements to “their” development and force you to pay through liens on your property. Landowners could lose their home or property if they do not have money, or want to pay who knows how much for improvements for the development that has nothing to do with them.


page 18,


They want to authorize the imposition of underground utility connection costs on private property without the landowners consent . The rules appear to wrongfully exceed the legislative authority in this regard. They are overstepping their authority.



If you have questions or information e-mail Robert Petricci  at <>

For those who want the specifics:

FYI the following information is to help prepare for the hearings:


The Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) created by last year’s legislature (Act 55, adding a new Chapter 171C to the Hawai`i Revised Statutes [HRS]) to exploit public lands commercially (pursuant to HRS § 171C-19, quoted below) is exempt from many requirements that affect other developers.  The PLDC is a vehicle to facilitate development on public land by providing special favors such as state money and permit avoidance.


Senate Resolution 25 (2012) urges the PLDC ‘to identify public trust land on the Islands of Hawaii and Maui with geothermal resources that may be developed”  and to “work with the Department of Land and Natural Resources to develop and implement geothermal projects on the Islands of Hawaii and Maui.”


Combining special favoritism through economic support and permit avoidance is consistent with how the State has treated geothermal development in the past, but now that approach is formalized in the PLDC to an extreme.




Notwithstanding section 171-42 and except as otherwise noted in this chapter, projects pursuant to this chapter shall be exempt from all statutes, ordinances, charter provisions, and rules of any government agency relating to special improvement district assessments or requirements; land use, zoning, and construction standards for subdivisions, development, and improvement of land; and the construction, improvement, and sale of homes thereon; provided that the public land planning activities of the corporation shall be coordinated with the county planning departments and the county land use plans, policies, and ordinances.

HRS § 171C-19

Voting against the legislation creating the PLDC were Representatives Awana, Belatti, Brower, Hanohano, Jordan, C. Lee, Luke, Saiki and Wooley plus Senator Ihara.



Sustainable Living Research Resolution proposal



Concerning Sustainable Living Research Sites in the State of Hawaii



The purpose of this Resolution is to support the worldwide transition to a livable, just, and sustainable civilization, by requesting and urging the Government of the State of Hawaii to enact legislation that would allow Hawaii’s County governments to permit the establishment and operation of “Sustainable Living Research Sites” on lands designated “agricultural” under state law [when the land involved is less than fifteen acres in size?].


A Sustainable Living Research Site is an area of land on which the legal owners and/or occupants are permitted to engage in activities and erect structures that might not otherwise be permitted under state and/or county law.




WHEREAS it is widely recognized that increases in human population, declining natural resources (topsoil, forests, fisheries, minerals, and fuels), rising levels of air and water pollution, climate change, unemployment, poverty, and other dangerously disruptive trends require immediate and creative responses by private and governmental entities of all sizes, at all levels; and


WHEREAS the “Hawaii 2050” plan calls upon all sectors and individuals to take action for the sustainability of the state’s economy, resources, environment, and quality of life; and


WHEREAS the County of Hawaii Resolution 249-09 adopted the “Sustainability Primer” which recognizes that there are “structural barriers that actually prevent people from being able to meet their own needs;” and


WHEREAS many citizens, families, organizations, and communities of Hawaii are ready, willing, and able to develop, test, refine, and implement a wide range of innovative methods, technologies, and holistic systems that increase the productivity, resilience, health, and sustainability of Hawaii’s economy, ecosystems, people, and culture; and


WHEREAS truly sustainable living frequently involves new and innovative methods, technologies, and holistic systems that conserve, harvest, and produce energy; increase net-negative CO2 output (“forests versus fires”); conserve and harvest fresh water; conserve and improve topsoil without expensive or toxic inputs; increase local food quality and security using organic methods and local materials; increase biodiversity and protect wildlife; provide onsite waste treatment and recycling with minimal or zero air and surface or ground water pollution; increase the supply of affordable housing by using on-site timber and re-using/recycling discarded/”waste” lumber, windows, plumbing supplies, and other manufactured goods; reduce the need for and use of imports from distant places while increasing the use and employment of local materials, labor, skills, and products; enrich neighborhood educational, vocational, and cultural opportunities for all ages while enhancing their experience of place and community; reduce the need for expensive public infrastructure and services; stimulate private investments in sustainable development; and


WHEREAS the development, testing, and refining of the aforesaid methods, technologies, and holistic systems for sustainable living frequently requires activities and structures that Hawaii’s County Governments might not be authorized to permit on lands designated “agricultural” under state law; and


WHEREAS a Sustainable Living Research Site is an area of land on which the legal owners and/or occupants are permitted to engage in activities and erect structures that might otherwise be prohibited or unduly constrained by state and/or county law;


NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Hawaii County Council supports the establishment of Sustainable Living Research Sites in Hawaii and hereby requests and urges the Government of the State of Hawaii to enact legislation which authorizes Hawaii’s County Governments to permit Sustainable Living Research Sites [on areas of less than fifteen acres?] on land designated “agricultural” under state law; and


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Hawaii County Council will work with state officials to prepare and promote such legislation.




Special Permit requirements for Farmers Markets

From: Graham Ellis
Sent: Friday, May 11, 2012 8:06 AM
To: Jeff Darrow
Planning Dept.

RE: Special Permit requirements for Farmers Markets and Community Buildings on land zoned Ag.

Dear Jeff,
Following our  Hawaii Sustainable Community Alliance meeting yesterday l am writing to request your feedback on two further questions.

Regarding Ordinance 96-160 Chapter 25 Zoning
under Section 25-4-11 (c) it states “Community, public, and public service buildings, Public uses, structures and buildings and community buildings are permitted uses in any district provided (they conform to the general plan) and the director has issued plan approval for such use.

1. Does this mean that the Director can approve such plans ‘without’ the need for a Special Permit? Please clarify.

In Article 5 zoning District Regulations ‘Community Buildings’ are listed as permitted uses without need for a Special Permit in almost every zone except Section 25-5-72 Agricultural. At the Planning Commission meeting May 3rd the Planning Director said that it is an anomaly that Farmers Markets are not permitted uses on land zoned Ag and require Special Permits.
Mr. Ellis,

The following are responses to your questions:

Question No. 1:

The Planning Director cannot approve a use if the use requires a Special Permit under State Law, as in the case of community centers located in the State Land Use Agricultural District.

Additionally, Chapter 25-4-11 is currently incorrect.  These uses are not permitted in any district, as noted in Section 25-5-72, which lists Community Buildings needing a Special Permit in the County Ag and State Land Use Ag Districts.

Question No. 2

Even if a change was done in the County Zoning Code to allow community centers and farmers markets in the County Agricultural zoned districts, they would still require a Special Permit if the use is located within the State Land Use Agricultural District.  A change would need to take place in Chapter 205-4.5 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, as amended (permissible uses in the Agricultural District).


Jeffrey Darrow, Planner
County of Hawaii Planning Department


Oregon Ecovillage links

In Oregon in general, Recode Oregon is a great resource, with relevant activities re code issues in diverse parts of the state:

Portland is buzzing with related activity. At least seven Cohousing groups listed in the CohoUS directory, find them here by scrolling down to Oregon:

The FIC site has a directory of intentional communities, here’s Oregon’s listing:

Some particular ones I know of include Tryon Community:

Columbia Ecovillage:

Kailash Ecovillage in SE:

City repair (founded and still headquartered in Portland) may have info on ecovillage activities as well, plus being a live example of reclaiming the commons and asking for forgiveness rather than permission: