DOH Air Pollution Permit to PGV

The state Department of Health (DOH) held a public hearing on Monday, September 28, 2015, at the Pahoa High and Intermediate School Cafeteria regarding an application by Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) to renew Noncovered Source Permit No. 0008-02 in accordance with DOH Hawaii Administrative Rules (HAR) Chapter 11-60.1, Air Pollution Control, for the operation of PGV's existing geothermal power plant, wellfield, and geothermal exploratory/developmental wells at its facility in Kapoho. The hearing was well attended with numerous people testifying and many of them requesting a contested case hearing. Written comments were accepted until October 19, 2015.  More than two years after the comments were received, DOH replied to them in December of 2017 (three years after PGV's permit had expired).

Air Pollution

Hawai`i Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapter 342B titled Air Pollution Control, in § 342B-1 titled Definitions, defines air pollution as “the presence in the outdoor air of substances in quantities and for durations which may endanger human health or welfare, plant or animal life, or property or which may unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property throughout the State and in such areas of the State as are affected thereby, but excludes all aspects of employer-employee relationships as to health and safety hazards.”

Air pollution from PGV's geothermal facility in Kapoho has continually endangered human health and welfare, plant and animal life and property and has unreasonably interfered with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property in the surrounding area.  Evidence of that fact can be found throughout this website.  DOH, being the agency legally responsible for regulating PGV's air pollution, has a history of failure to prevent those continual problems.

The following links provide related material:

DOH Permit Review Summary

DOH Draft Permit to PGV

DOH Rules Chapter 11-60.1, Air Pollution Control

Hawai`i Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapter 342B 

Initial Issues

PPA and the community have identified some needed changes to the current permit:

DOH should regulate PGV based on the amount of hydrogen sulfide released by PGV, not by the readings reported from PGV samplers at the facility's boundary.

PGV's hydrogen sulfide samplers at its facility boundary sample air at 15 feet: too high to detect ground hugging hydrogen sulfide released during maintenance and too low to detect hydrogen sulfide mixed with steam that rises over the samplers and descends into the community as it cools.

PGV has only three hydrogen sulfide samplers and the DOH Clean Air Branch has admitted that if the wind direction is the wrong way, these three PGV samplers will not detect a release.

The number of hydrogen sulfide samplers is inadequate to allow County First Responders to make reasonable decisions on evacuation and direction of evacuation.

The permit does not require sampling for deposits of heavy metals, of caustic soda, or of other potentially dangerous chemicals.

       Contested Case

At the Department of Health public hearing on September 28, 2015, a Contested Case was requested by many individuals showing they are threatened with potential injury if DOH approves PGV's proposed renewal of its Noncovered Source Permit.