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DHHL geothermal royalties must benefit Native Hawaiians

Hawaii Attorney General David Louie on Tuesday announced 100 percent of royalties derived from geothermal development on Hawaiian home lands must be used to benefit Native Hawaiians.

The formal opinion was in response to an inquiry from Hawaiian Homes Commission Chair Jobie Masagatani.

Louie made the decision based on an analysis of the state’s obligations under the Admissions Act, which made Hawaii a state, and the state Constitution.

“The Admissions Act provides that all proceeds and income from the ‘available lands,’ as defined by the [Hawaiian Homes Commission Act] shall be used only in carrying out provisions of [the HCCA],” the Attorney General’s Office stated in a press release.

The opinion also concludes the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has the responsibility of managing geothermal resources on its lands rather than the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

“I hope that by issuing (the opinion) the Legislature and the community will have a greater appreciation of the constitutional and legal foundation of DHHL’s rights to economic benefits of geothermal resource development on Hawaiian home lands,” Louie said in the release.

Masagatani couldn’t be reached for comment.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs receives 20 percent of the state’s geothermal royalties.

In fiscal year 2011-12, OHA received $619,389 in royalties from Puna Geothermal Venture, the only geothermal power plant in the state, according to a report to the state Legislature from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Hawaii County received $929,084 that fiscal year. The county gets 30 percent of the state’s royalties.

Royalties are based on the production and sale of electricity to Hawaii Electric Light Co.

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