SETTING POLITICS ASIDE TO DO THE RIGHT THING
Despite immense pressure from special interests or the powers that be, Chris has never been afraid to stand up to do the right thing.
Standing up to chemical companies
When residents began fighting for their health and safety as industrial agriculture companies sprayed toxic pesticides near schools, communities, and watersheds, Chris led public hearings and questioned officials about the lack of meaningful oversight. In 2018 Chris negotiated a deal to overcome strong opposition by pesticide companies and made Hawaii the first state to ban the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos, and establish 100-foot pesticide buffer zones around all public schools. The following year California, Oregon, New York and Connecticut introduced similar legislation following Hawaii’s success. This was the subject of a 2019 documentary "Poisoning Paradise" produced by Pierce Brosnan and directed by Keely Shaye Brosnan.
Fighting mainland utilities exploiting local residents
When a mainland corporation pushed a $4.3 billion takeover of Hawaii’s utilities that would raise electric bills and hurt local consumers, Chris built a bipartisan coalition and led the opposition, passing legislation against the acquisition and successfully fighting back against a $20million corporate PR campaign to defeat the takeover. In 2017 Chris authored a first-of-its-kind bill to ensure utilities reduce rates and better serve the interests of consumers. Known as the Hawaii Ratepayer Protection Act, it directly tied electric utility earnings to a utility's achievement on performance metrics such as customer satisfaction, lowering electric rates, progress on renewable energy, and interconnection of customers’ home solar. The Hawaii Ratepayer Protection Act passed in 2018 as Senate Bill 2939 and was signed into law as Act 5.
Standing up for LGBT families
In 2013 Chris stepped up to help lead the campaign to protect the civil rights of countless local families by passing marriage equality in Hawaii. Despite receiving a death threat for his role as a spokesperson for the campaign, he fought on to help end discrimination against LGBT families and made Hawaii the 15th state to pass marriage equality, allowing local citizens the freedom to marry the person they love.
Taking on the fossil fuel lobby
When utilities began blocking startup solar companies from serving local families, endangering thousands of local jobs and holding families hostage to high utility bills, Chris convened public hearings and passed a law that directed the utility to let more consumers take advantage of solar energy. Chris was honored to be named a national “Solar Champion” for this work. Chris then took on the high costs of the fossil fuel industry and passed a groundbreaking law making Hawaii the first state to require all electricity to come from cheaper 100% renewable energy. Progress reducing Hawaii’s dependence on costly fossil fuels has already saved local residents half a billion dollars and lowered Oahu’s electric rates by 20 percent in recent years.
Fighting to protect Hawaii’s critical habitat
Senator Brian Schatz proposed the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument to create the world's largest marine protected area encompassing the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and surrounding waters. The industrial fishing industry strongly opposed protecting the area, arguing that it would decrease their catch. Several former Hawaii Governors and a former U.S. Senator joined a rally in opposition to the expansion. In spite of the heavy industry and political opposition, Chris led grassroots efforts to coordinate organizations and students across the state to protect this incredible resource in perpetuity. In a commentary published in The Hill, Chris argued, "The claim that marine monuments kill jobs and reduce fish catch is not supported by logic or scientific data." In 2016 Chris joined President Barack Obama as he signed the order making the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument the world's largest marine protected area. The following year the fishing industry reported having the best year it had ever had.
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