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Ige issues emergency proclamation to secure Puna geothermal plant


    9 MAY 2018 CTY KILAUEA AERIAL Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo by Cindy Ellen Russell The East Rift zone from the on-going Kilauea eruption as seen from a helicopter on Wednesday morning. Pictured at the bottom right is the Puna Geothermal Venture plant.

Gov. David Ige has issued a supplemental emergency proclamation for the Kilauea volcano eruption that will help authorities cope with the threat to the Puna Geothermal Venture as well as other “unpredictable risks” posed by the eruption.

The PGV plant is “increasingly threatened by the Lower East Rift eruption of Kilauea volcano,” according to a news release from the administration today.

Ige visited an intersection near the plant on Tuesday afternoon, and said earlier today that “the community could see the activity beginning to start, the steam, the vent.”

“It’s approaching the PGV plant, and that’s kind of the concern. If you look at all of those fissures, it’s really lining up in that area, so we just want to be prepared,” he said in an interview.

In the announcement of the supplemental proclamation today, the administration said Ige instructed the administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, and Hawaii Civil Defense Agency Administrator Talmadge Magno to “lead a team to develop and implement mitigation steps as necessary to protect public health and safety.”

That team will include federal and state agencies, as well as PGV, and will review and assess the existing PGV Emergency Response Plan as well as “develop a specific mission strategy deemed appropriate to mitigate potential impacts from lava,” according to the administration statement.

Residents in the surrounding neighborhoods have been particularly concerned about 60,000 gallons of flammable pentane that is stored at the PGV power plant, which has already shut down. Some residents worry the lava could ignite the flammable gas and cause a major explosion.

In describing the role of the new team, the statement from the Ige administration said that “expected steps include addressing the supplies of pentane gas used in the production of geothermal power including options for off-site relocation or controlled leakage or burn. Contingency plans will be made to secure and evacuate area residents should lava intrusions cause elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) or sulfur dioxide (SO2) to be released.”

“State and county teams will work closely to marshal the necessary resources to fully engage and ensure a successful effort to secure PGV’s facilities and protect public health, safety and the environment,” Ige said in the statement.

Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for PGV, said the company plans to move at least 12,000 gallons of pentane away from the plant today and hopes to move a total of 50,000 gallons in the next day or two. “This is priority number one for us,” he said.

Kaleikini declined to discuss the governor’s proclamation, saying “I don’t know any details. I need to see the proclamation. We’re all waiting for it.”

He added, “What I think is, this action being taken is to help open up for more resources to help with the mitigation efforts. I think we’ve got a handle on it from my perspective, but it doesn’t hurt to have additional resources available.”

The pentane has already been moved to high ground on the PGV property, Kaleikini said, but two new vents opened Tuesday in the area of Leilani subdivision that is closest to the shuttered power plant. Officials declined to say exactly where the pentane will be stored after it is relocated.

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