By ERIN MILLER
Stephens Media Hawaii
Fracking won’t be coming to Hawaii County.
County Council members unanimously approved a bill banning hydraulic fracturing, a controversial process by which fluids, including water and sometimes chemicals, are injected deep into the ground to access resources.
On the mainland and in Europe, critics say the procedure contaminates water supplies.
The council let introducer Brenda Ford, South Kona-Ka‘u, make the lone comment before approving the bill’s final reading.
“We have to protect our land, we have to protect our people, we have to protect our aquifers,” Ford said. “Let’s move on with other protections we need to provide for our residents.”
More than a dozen people testified in support of the measure, listing concerns ranging from pollution to the possibility of increased earthquake activity that fracking could cause.
Other testifiers noted the importance of the county tackling the issue, claiming that the state will not.
“The council protecting the health and safety of its citizens is a liberty and a right that needs to be exercised, because there are those in the Legislature that would like to take it away,” said Paul Kuykendall, testifying from Hilo. “Watch for bills next Legislature that might impede on this right. It’s really a responsibility the government has to protect the people of the aina.”
Waimea testifier Isaac Harp said he appreciated Ford’s “forward thinking” in introducing the measure.
“There’s other, less intrusive methods to develop alternative energy, such as wind and solar,” Harp said. “It’s actually growing across our island. I hope we can lean more toward that rather than intrusive type activities.”
The council also unanimously approved Puna Councilman Zendo Kern’s bill to allow the county to clear trees or other flora posing an “imminent danger” to adjacent lots, if a neighboring property owner complains to the county. Council members discussed at length the potential cost of such a program. Removing some albizia, a fast-growing, shallow-rooted tree prone to toppling over that prompted Kern to consider the measure, can cost thousands of dollars per plant.
Kern said the council could revisit the issue in six months or a year, addressing the funding concerns after seeing how many legitimate complaints come to the mayor’s office.
“I would like to believe the administration would come to us if there was such an overwhelming response they couldn’t get it all done,” Ford added. “They don’t want to be bleeding money. They will handle this.”
Email Erin Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.