BY REP. CHRIS LEE – I have nothing against Mililani Trask, but her recent editorial made very serious accusations about me. I would like to correct these false claims and explain why I am being attacked.
If there is one lesson in politics, it is that special interests with millions of dollars on the line will do anything to get what they want. Today they are coming after me because I chose not to play their game.
This is not the first time they have tried to influence elections. HawaiiNewsNow reported geothermal developers IDG and Honua Group illegally funneled tens of thousands of dollars to elect their own candidate in 2012. IDG hired Mililani Trask as their paid lobbyist and campaign finance records show the same developers are now funneling thousands to her campaign for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs where she can continue to push the projects her employers seek.
While I strongly disagree that any company should buy elections like this, I understand why these special interests and their lobbyist Ms. Trask are now coming after me. I wrote a bill to expand geothermal power to meet Hawaii’s clean energy goals – but I would not agree to give their company the exclusive ability to develop it. They opposed provisions the public asked me to put in the bill to require that developers adequately engage local communities about their plans before drilling begins.
They are upset with me because I supported a moratorium that would prevent them from “fracking” to unlock geothermal potential until the Department of Health(DOH) can ensure it will not contaminate our water table. As DOH explained in an April letter, “The Department does not currently have rules, standards or resources to monitor the quality of groundwater throughout the islands… typically such a program would take at least 2 years to establish…”
The bottom line is that these developers are trying to change the law to fast-track their projects, avoid community engagement, and will attack people like me who stand in their way. However, safety is paramount and I refuse to put the interests of their company before the interests of our community.
As expected, Ms. Trask tries to paint me as anti-renewable energy to pressure me to agree to her employer’s demands. But even a simple google search reveals her attacks are false. She claims I “heard every Bill proposed for the solar industry & made sure none passed…” But in fact, House Bill 1943, which I introduced and passed, was the solar industry’s top priority to help put more solar on the grid. I was nominated by The Blue Planet Foundation and solar companies as Hawaii’s “Solar Champion” for stepping up on the issue.
Ms. Trask falsely claims I “ensure that any bill HECO opposes gets killed or deferred.” Yet, over HECO’s adamant objections I passed two bills out of the House to look at revoking HECO’s license to operate as a monopoly. She falsely claims I opposed hydrogen technology and a 100% renewable energy goal, but I strongly support both and passed these bills through my committee and rallied others to support them.
I certainly do not have space to refute all the wildly untrue claims from IDG and its lobbyist, but they could not be more false. However, it is when Ms. Trask drags my parents into her attack and resorts to accusing me of racism that it becomes apparent they will say anything to assault me. I know I should be upset by such slander, but I do not take it personally because politics is politics and I know Ms. Trask is just doing her job as a paid lobbyist for these special interests.
Despite these attacks, I stand firmly by my decision to expand geothermal energy in Hawaii the right way – open to whichever company has the best and safest plan, with an inclusive process that values public input, and without giveaways to special interests, because the only interest I serve is that of our community.
Chris Lee is a Democrat representing Lanikai, Kailua and Waimanalo in the Hawaii State House. Lee is currently the Chair of the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection (EEP). He also serves on the Consumer Protection and Commerce (CPC), Judiciary (JUD), Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs (OMH), and Water and Land (WAL) committees.