Rep. Chris Lee Destroys Hawaii’s Options for Geothermal, Solar Power

Mililani Trask
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Mililani Trask
Mililani Trask

BY MILILANI TRASK –  Recently, I was forwarded links to blog posts by state Rep. Chris Lee, D-Lanikai/Waimanalo, who is running for re-election to the House, and a letter he sent to Hawaiian Homesteaders.

In these communications, Lee attacks me as well as my company, Indigenous Consultants, and the Innovations Development Group. He also tries to justify his successful efforts to kill all geothermal bills introduced in the Hawaii legislature. Lee never had the integrity to send me these blog entries or a copy of the letter, but they have been forwarded and I would like to reply to them directly.


The IDG, the DLNR, DBEDT, State Energy Department and I, as well as many others in the renewable energy field, have tried for years to get the legislature to pass energy bills.

Every bill – including all the geothermal bills for the last 2 years – have been killed by Chris Lee, chair of the House Energy Committee.

Although Lee insists he supported ‘County Home Rule’, he refused to accept simple clear language in the bill acknowledging that the Counties had the authority to regulate geothermal as they saw fit.

Instead, Lee came up with pages of “amendments” requiring costly studies and lengthily delays. He said that he had added the restrictions to protect the public and the environment from the threat of geothermal fracking and the danger of geothermal development.

Based on these excuses, Lee held the geothermal bill until the deadline had passed, ensuring it would die again.

Here is the letter sent by West Hawaii Planning Commissioner Wally Ishibashi to Senator Malama Solomon, D-Hawaii Island, when Lee held the geothermal bill for a “Conference Committee” last session. See Ishibashi Letter

Solomon sent the letter to Lee to demonstrate that his amendments were not needed because the County regulations already required the studies, which the County was paying for with the royalty funds they receive.

Ishibashi noted that Lee was not supporting Home Rule, but circumventing it by imposing state regulations that were not needed and duplicative.

Lee ignored the County Planning Commission letter.

When we called to request that he move ahead to Conference Committee, we learned that Lee had no intention of moving any geothermal bill out.  His goal was to double development costs, create delays in the geothermal development process and impose unnecessary requirements that Homesteaders would not be able to cover. His goal was to stop geothermal development.

If you check the record, you will see that for the past several years Lee has supported anti- fracking legislation to “protect the public from the threat of geothermal.”

There is no fracking in Hawaii, it is a technology used for gas and oil development. We do not have gas or oil in Hawaii.  Fracking is not being used in Hawaii and could not be used here because Hawaii has permeable soil.

The University of Hawaii Center for Active Volcanoes (Don Thomas), the DBEDT and DLNR all submitted testimony on this, but Lee ignored it.

We even had our geothermal expert from New Zealand send in testimony providing the scientific reasons why fracking could not be used in Hawaii, but it was also ignored by Lee.

When I asked Lee where the franking was being tested in Hawaii and who was using the technology, he refused to respond.

Instead, Lee said that geothermal developers, the IDG and myself were all lying and we were opposing fracking because we had something to hide.

In my testimony, I pointed out that Lee had inserted a definition of fracking that was neither scientific nor accurate.

I testified that his definition of fracking was so vague that it would prevent drilling for water exploration.

When this turned out to be true, Lee responded by saying he would insert new language, keeping the vague definition of fracking, but saying that drilling for water would be allowed.

I think racism is also involved in Lee’s opposition to the IDG and the effort of other Hawaiians to get geothermal development moving under the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.

I say this because for the last several years Lee has insisted that geothermal was dangerous and needed to be strictly regulated for public safety.

He has taken every step he could to stop and prevent the Waimanalo Homesteaders from moving their Green plan for Waimanalo (it has been supported by the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board). The plan would allow for geothermal steam to be used for hothouse agriculture for growing tomatoes on the homestead.

The Homesteaders plan does not include electricity generation or building a plant. It only allows for using steam from the ground for agricultural purposes.

Under existing law, Homesteaders can do this. In order to prevent the use of steam by the Homesteaders, Lee inserted into the bill language requiring that geothermal could only be developed for electricity generation.

This would make it unlawful for anyone in Hawaii to develop geothermal energy resources for steam for hothouse agriculture, hydrogen for hydrogen cars or ammonia for fertilizer.

This would limit geothermal development to the production of electricity for HECO to sell – a great boon for HECO, but a huge loss for Hawaii’s effort to become energy self-sufficient.

Lee has been very supportive of the HECO effort to bring online technology for charging electric cars. This would increase HECO electricity sales and facilitate another HECO monopoly, but Lee has steadfastly resisted replacing fossil fuel vehicles with hydrogen vehicles.

IDG is a Hawaiian company that supports the right of indigenous peoples to own, control and develop their natural resources, including energy resources.

The DHHL Waimanalo Homesteaders are also Hawaiians. Lee has tried to kill their effort to grow food using steam.

However, when non-Hawaiians sought special legislation to allow them to develop geothermal resources without any County or State Regulations, Lee not only supported their effort, but waived review of their bill so it would pass his committee without a hearing.

I am referring to SB 2274, legislation that Sen. Russell Ruderman, D-Hawaii Island introduced allowing “Seaview Estates” to develop geothermal without any regulation.

Recently, Seaview has been in the news because they have operated for years on Hawaii Island without County and State permits and have encroached onto state conservation land to cut down and sell rare Hawaiian trees for illegal sale.

The only difference with the Seaview group and the Waimanalo Homesteaders is their ethnicity – they are haole and IDG, myself and the Homesteaders are Hawaiians.

Finally, Lee has told people that I support geothermal because I want to make millions of dollars. Here is a little fact check. I live in O’laa, an unimproved subdivision in Kurtistown in a small 2- bedroom house. I built it myself – self- help. I have no water service, but use a catchment tank.  Our roads are unimproved. I certainly do not have million of dollars and I am not on the IDG board and never have been. My small LLC, Indigenous Consultants, works with indigenous people involved with renewable energy development.

As I understand it, Lee lives in Lanikai, one of the wealthiest districts on Oahu, with his mom and dad. If Lee or anyone else has evidence that I have made “millions” please send it to me with the bank account number so I can make a withdrawal.

The bottom line is that Chris Lee is a “HECO boy.” He has ensured that any bill HECO opposes gets killed or deferred, while supporting all HECO initiatives.

If you really want to see how Lee works, read the REACH (Renewable Energy Action Coalition of Hawaii) report from the last legislative session. See it here: REACH Hawaii State Legislation Wrapup 2014

The report explains how Lee used the gut and replace process to kill both resolutions calling for 100 percent renewable energy.

The only bill Lee worked on for passage last session was the gay marriage bill that he championed and had passed. No progress was made on energy last session or the previous session.

You may want to track what occurred with the solar bills the last two sessions. Hundreds of ratepayers, industrial users and companies went to the legislature to testify about HECO’s grid problems.

Lee heard every bill proposed for the solar industry and made sure none passed.  This gave HECO the time to impose their new rules to delay consumer hook-ups to the grid and to impose thousands of dollars for hook-up costs on ratepayers.

The solar industry collapsed before the 2014 session opened and many solar companies went bankrupt but HECO still reported a huge profit and still gave their Executives a 5 million dollar bonus.

Energy is a critical issue for Hawaii. We need leadership in the House that will stand up to the HECO monopoly and move forward with the Democratic Party promise that Hawaii will have a State Energy authority. This promise was made in the last election and never fulfilled.

Mililani B Trask is a candidate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs





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