Governor to issue emergency proclamation to secure Puna geothermal plant

Gov. David Ige will issue a supplemental emergency declaration to provide authority for him “to do everything he needs to do” to secure the Puna Geothermal Venture power plant, which is increasingly threatened by the Lower East Rift eruption of Kilauea volcano.

Ige declined to discuss the specifics of the proclamation until he has met with lawyers who are helping to draft the document, but noted that he visited a road intersection near the plant Tuesday afternoon.

“The community could see the activity beginning to start, the steam, the vent,” Ige said in an interview today. “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.”

County spokeswoman Janet Snyder said that “this is just in case, he’ll have the money or whatever to respond.”

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.

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.

Hawaii County police today reported the first known case of looting within the evacuation zone on Pomaikai Street in the Leilani Estates subdivision, and a Hawaii National Guard spokesman said an additional 20 soldiers with vehicles will begin patrolling Leilani Estates subdivision today at the request of residents.

Police said someone broke windows at the home to get inside, and took a rifle, antique silverware and beer from the home. The burglary was reported at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, but police said there have been no arrests yet. Police and prosecutors have said that they intend to file felony charges against anyone caught looting or vandalizing property in the evacuation areas.

Maj. Jeff Hickman said the Hawaii National Guard now has 95 personnel working on the eruption.