Skip Navigation
The Library of Congress - Thomas
United States Senate




Senator Akaka has been a stalwart supporter of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and subsequent environmental protection laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Ocean Dumping Act, and Endangered Species Act. He knows firsthand the positive effect that these landmark measures have had on Hawaii and our nation.  Under NEPA, the environmental assessment and environmental impact statement process has prevented or mitigated destruction and degradation of valuable habitats and important cultural sites.  The air we breathe, water we drink, and ocean we swim in and rely on for food is safer in part because of NEPA.  NEPA has also been a major factor for increasing citizen participation and government transparency.

Our nation has come a long way in protecting our environment since Rachel Carson published Silent Spring.  Protecting and strengthening our environmental laws is a high priority of Senator Akaka's and he opposes President Bush and majority party attempts to weaken environmental protection measures.

GLOBAL WARMING - Global warming is not a new issue in Hawaii, the debate began over 30 years ago when the Mauna Loa Climate Observatory first documented evidence of increased carbon dioxide levels in the Earth's atmosphere.  It is clear that Hawaii is disproportionately susceptible to increases in sea-level rise and ocean temperature that jeopardize public safety, economic development, and the health of our unique island ecosystems and wildlife.  Climate models forecasting intense storms and severe weather further threaten Hawaii's capacity to respond to natural disasters and acquire immediate relief from neighboring states.

Empowering the U.S. to take the lead in reducing emissions and combating the threats resulting from global warming, Senator Akaka most recently joined Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT) in introducing S.3698, the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2006.  

S. 3698 is ambitious and visionary legislation vitally needed to protect our planet for future generations.  It provides for standards and grants for sequestration of greenhouse gases, which includes requiring that power plants, automobiles and carbon intensive businesses reduce their global warming pollution.  The bill would also place the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in charge of national programs to help stabilize global atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.

Senator Akaka recognizes the need for the federal government to invest in technology research to control greenhouse gas emissions.  Encouraging renewable energy technologies will play a crucial role in successfully curbing U.S. emissions.  Senator Akaka firmly believes the State of Hawaii along with the rest of the United States will be poised to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

Senator Akaka continues to support initiatives that bring various stakeholders together to improve the health of our planet and the quality of life for all Americans.

INVASIVE SPECIES - Invasive species have wreaked havoc in some parts of the U.S., especially in Hawaii.  On our islands, the threat is especially critical and is the main reason for the loss of biological diversity.  Approximately 5,047 species, or 22 percent, of the 23,150 known species of plants and animals in Hawaii are not native, and the rate of new introductions to Hawaii has increased from one per year to an average of 35 per year.  Senator Akaka understands the critical importance of mitigating the threats of invasive species in order to protect Hawaii's economic and environmental future.  Senator Akaka championed the fight against invasive species and initiated and signed onto Dear Colleague letters urging increased funding for programs to combat invasive species.

Senator Akaka is an original cosponsor of the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act (NAISA), which reauthorizes, strengthens, and expands the National Invasive Species Act of 1996.  It includes provisions requiring vessel operators in U.S. waters to comply with interim standards for ballast water exchange and create management plans that minimize new introductions and transfers of invasive species.  The current standards for ballast water exchange are voluntary and compliance is low.  NAISA also requires screening for all new importations of live aquatic organisms.  The bill provides for the identification of high risk pathways for new species introductions with the long-term goal of preventing new introductions.

Senator Akaka introduced the Public Land Protection and Conservation Act.  The bill attempts to create the land-based equivalent to NAISA.  It offers a comprehensive plan for federal aid to assist the states in their implementation of terrestrial (land-based) alien species programs.  The bill includes state assessments, control grants, and rapid response funds.  The bill is one step toward enhancing capabilities at the ground level for invasive species assessment and awareness.

As Ranking Member on the Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee on National Parks, Senator Akaka conducted field hearings in Hawaii on invasive species.  This resulted in $700,000 in FY04/05 funding for Hawaii.  In addition, he helped secure $2.7 million to protect Hawaii from the threat of brown tree snakes.

OCEANS, REEFS, AND FISHERIES - Senator Akaka has been a strong advocate for healthy oceans and coral reefs, and sustainable use of ocean resources.  He was an original cosponsor of the Oceans Act in 2000 (and a cosponsor in 1999), a bill that established a national oceans commission to review the laws and regulations governing oceans, and to make recommendations on how to improve them.  The bill was enacted in 2000.  Senator Akaka also supported President Clinton's executive order implementing the Act.  The Commission's report was released in 2005, and Congress is now considering changes to the laws and policies dealing with oceans.

Through his advocacy of coral reefs and support of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) in 2000, Senator Akaka was able to bring oil revenue from the Outer Continental Shelf to the Department of Commerce in an appropriations deal brokered over CARA ($25 million for 2 years).  Section 104 of the coastal programs section of the bill (Title I) is modeled after Senator Akaka's coral reef protection initiative.  He also worked to include a strong coastal stewardship title in the bill, including much-needed funding for coral reef resources.  The bill allocates $25 million for coral reef preservation to be divided between the Interior and Commerce Departments.

Working with Senator Inouye, Senator Akaka was able to fund the Coral Reef program at $25 million since 2000.  He sponsored S. 1888, the Coral Reef Resource Conservation and Management Act (1999), which created a $25 million research grant program to conserve reefs under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior.  Senator Akaka also took the lead on Dear Colleagues letters from reef-states (FL, HI) in support of appropriations for coral reef research and education.

Senator Akaka has also consistently supported bills and activities to prevent and to clean up debris in the oceans - in particular the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands - and provided video remarks to the International Marine Debris Conference on Derelict Fishing Gear and the Ocean Environment, in Honolulu, on August 8, 2000.  He is a cosponsor of S. 362, the Marine Debris Research and Reduction Act, which would establish a program to reduce and prevent marine debris.

Senator Akaka supported the establishment of the Humpback Whale Sanctuary, and the establishment of the Northwestern Hawaiian Island (NWHI) Marine Sanctuary since the designation process formally began in 2002.  This structured process has given multiple groups including fishermen, scientists, federal and state agencies, and the Native Hawaiian community, opportunity to voice their concerns.  Senator Akaka is dedicated to ensuring that conservation and preservation needs are balanced with the cultural use and wise stewardship of NWHI resources.

On June 15, 2006, President George W. Bush used his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create the world's largest marine conservation area.  Senator Akaka participated in the Presidential proclamation ceremony naming the NWHI a National Marine Monument.  Although this designation is a departure from the Marine Sanctuary designation, Senator Akaka is hopeful that the Administration will continue to properly incorporate the cultural traditions that are of great importance to Native Hawaiians and careful traditions of fishermen.

As we move forward, Senator Akaka will continue to advocate for effective stewardship of the unique ocean and cultural resources in the NWHI.

Senator Akaka has consistently requested additional appropriations to provide for more observers on the Hawaii longline fishing fleet - to observe for turtles, sea-birds, and other by-catch.  This resulted in FY 2004 funding of $4 million.  He supported the introduction of circle hooks and other methods to decrease the number of by-catch turtles and other species by the long-line fleet. 

Senator Akaka has also worked hard to protect the endangered leatherback sea turtle, which is one of the magnificent honu that live in our oceans.  He supports additional research on fishing gear improvements to reduce bycatch and restrictions on gear, such as "circle" hooks to discourage bycatch of sea turtles.

A major contributor to the problem of sea turtle decline is the loss of habitat throughout the Pacific and fishing practices of foreign fleets.  Both are difficult to influence through the nation's legislative system.  Senator Akaka supports U.S. accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea Treaty (UNCLOS) Treaty and cosponsored two bills in the 108th Congress (S. 2647 and S. 2648) that embrace many of the principles outlined by the final report of the U.S. Commission and the Pew Commission on Ocean Policy.  Senaotr Akaka will continue to look for ways to support international conventions and oversight of industrial longline fishing.  He believes that the UNCLOS Treaty is the best way for the U.S. to be heard internationally on the issues of maritime security, resource governance, and conservation.

FORESTS - In 1992, Senator Akaka's bill, the Hawaii Tropical Forest Recovery Act (S. 2679) was signed into law (P.L. 102-574).  The Act resulted in new and expanded facilities at the Institute of Pacific Island Forestry and established the Hawaii Tropical Forestry Recovery Task Force.  The Task Force was charged with creating a plan for rejuvenating Hawaii's tropical forests.  A draft Hawaii Tropical Forest Recovery Action Plan was distributed in 1994 followed by a five-year strategy to implement the plan.  Elements in the tropical forestry plan include the study of biological control of non-native species that degrade or destroy native forest ecosystems and global climate change and the significance of achieving a reduction of greenhouse gases through research associated with the unique atmospheric conditions found in Hawaii and the Pacific Ocean.

He has also been a strong advocate for the preservation and protection of our national forests, wilderness, and wild areas on public lands.  Senator Akaka strongly supported the Clinton Administration's initiative to inventory and protect remaining roadless areas in national forests.  In May 2002, he joined his colleagues in the Senate in a letter to President Bush urging him to keep the Administration's promise made on May 4, 2001, to uphold and defend the U.S. Forest Service's Roadless Area Conservation Rule to protect 58.5 million acres of America's wild national forests from road-building.  Since the 107th Congress, Senator Akaka has also cosponsored the Roadless Area Conservation Act, which would have codified the Roadless Area Conservation Rule into law.

Senator Akaka also believes that we must carefully evaluate drilling in monuments, national parks, and other wilderness areas.  He supported legislation (S.Amdt. 879, to H.R. 2217, the FY 2002 Interior Appropriations bill), which prohibits expenditure of Department of the Interior funds for pre-leasing or leasing activities under the Mineral Leasing Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act in all national monuments designated pursuant to the Antiquities Act of 1906.  The amendment covers federal oil, gas, coal, and geothermal deposits managed by the Interior Department under the two mineral leasing statutes within the boundaries of all national monuments in effect as of January 20, 2001, unless the proclamation designating a national monument allowed for that activity.

In addition, Senator Akaka strongly supports the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Legacy program.  This has resulted in $2.7 million for the McCandless Ranch to protect critical habitats and $3.4 million for purchasing Wao Kele o Puna.

In the Senate, working with delegation members and the Senator James Jeffords, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Senator Akaka led the effort to pass the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge Expansion Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-481). 

Additionally, he was instrumental in securing federal funding to help purchase Muolea Point on Maui.

NATIONAL PARKS - Senator Akaka has been a strong advocate for expanding, enhancing and caring for the nation's and Hawaii's national parks and refuges.  He was twice named a "Friend of the National Parks," by the National Parks Conservation Association, based on his voting record in support of our nation's parks.

Senator Akaka is the lead Democrat to increase National Park Service (NPS) funding for FY 2007; his efforts in FY 2006 resulted in an increase in operations funding over the President's request.  He also sponsored an amendment to the transportation bill to increase the amount of funding for parks roads.  This resulted in an increase in funding for national park roads.

Additionally, Senator Akaka consistently advocated for cultural resources and the voice of the people, in insisting that NPS include interpretations of the histories and cultures from all nations and peoples.  He introduced S. 2478, the Peopling of America Theme Study Act, for a theme study on the manner that various migrations contributed to the history of America, and to commemorate major ‘peopling' or migrations.

Senator Akaka supported President Clinton's initiative in the NPS to document and establish a National Historical Park at Manzanar, Calif., to preserve the site and history of the Japanese-Americans interned during WW II.  In the 109th Congress, he cosponsored with Senator Inouye, a bill (S. 1719) to provide for the preservation of the historic confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II, and for other purposes.  S. 1719 would authorize $38 million for the national grant program that may be used for eligible sites in Hawaii including the Honouliuli Relocation and Sand Island Detention Centers.

Senator Akaka is an original cosponsor of the Angel Island Immigration Station Restoration and Preservation Act (S. 262), which was signed into law (P.L. 109-119).  This Act authorizes appropriations to restore the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay.  More than one million immigrants entered the United States through the Angel Island Immigration Station between 1910-1940.

He also sponsored the Hawaiian National Park Language Correction Act of 1999 (P.L. 106-510), which changed the statutory names of certain Hawaii parks to reflect their correct Hawaiian spelling.

Senator Akaka's leadership in the Senate as Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks resulted in the enactment of the Air Tour Management Act of 2000, which was included as part of the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (P.L. 106-181).  The law required the Federal Aviation Administration and National Park Service to work with air tour companies to develop plans for reasonable air tour traffic around national parks.  This resulted in Hawaii being the first state in the nation to have air tour management plans for its national parks (Hawaii Volcano National Park, Haleakala, and Kalaupapa), creating more positive experiences for visitors and residents in and around national parks.

In addition, Senator Akaka sponsored many park bills for Hawaii that have been enacted into law.  These include:

  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Adjustment Act of 1998 and of 2000
  • Pu`uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park Addition Act of 2001
  • Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park Addition Act of 2003
  • Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail Act of 2000
  • Palmyra Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) ($1.25 M for FY 2001) 

FUEL ECONOMY - Senator Akaka is an advocate for increasing fuel efficiency standards for automobiles and trucks.  SUVs and light trucks comprise more than half of the new car sales in the U.S., and as a consequence the overall fuel economy of our nation's fleet is the lowest it has been in two decades.  The debate over CAFE standards has taken on increased importance because of the growing number of vehicles with lower fuel efficiencies, rapidly escalating gasoline prices, and restrictions in supplies due to events such as Hurricane Katrina.

Fuel efficiency in the transportation sector is an important component of a national energy policy.  The transportation sector contributes 32 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, the vast majority of all our U.S. greenhouse gases, compared to other commercial or industrial sectors.  The National Academy of Sciences, in its Congressionally mandated study, concluded in 2002 that significant increases in CAFE standards are technically possible using conventional technologies, without compromising safety, with adequate lead time.

Senator Akaka cosponsored numerous bills and amendments to address this issue, including legislation offered by Senator Dick Durbin, that would have increased the fuel economy standards for cars and for light trucks, including SUVs.  Passenger cars would ramp up to 40 miles per gallon by 2016 and non-passenger vehicles would ramp up to 27.5 miles per gallon by 2016.  Senator Akaka also cosponsored the Automobile Fuel Economy Act (S. 255), that would have increased CAFE standards for light trucks and automobiles (up to 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight) to 27.5 miles per gallon by 2011.  The bill would have also increased CAFE standards for certain classes of vehicles in the Federal fleet that are manufactured or purchased after specified dates.  He remains committed to increasing CAFE standards for automobiles and trucks.

ENERGY - As a senior member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Akaka has been a leader in promoting renewable and alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar, wave, ocean thermal cooling, enthanol, and hydrogen.  His energy initiatives have focused on using cleaner and more efficient sources of fuel for the future to alleviate America's and Hawaii's dependence on foreign oil.  He has consistently supported budget requests and appropriations for energy sciences and research and development.  Senator Akaka has also strongly supported incentives for other renewable and alternative energy industries, such as solar, wind, photovoltaic, and ocean thermal conversion.

Senator Akaka's vision for our nation's energy future resulted in hydrogen and methane hydrates legislation enacted into law.  This resulted in a cutting-edge hydrogen fuel cell project at Hawaii Natural Energy Institute.  Additionally, working with Senator Inouye, Senator Akaka helped secure $3 million for the Hydrogen Gateway project in FY 2006.

Senator Akaka is a founding member of the Senate Hydrogen Caucus, which is dedicated to increasing the visibility and knowledge of the hydrogen economy.  He introduced the Hydrogen Future Act and am committed to pursuing hydrogen legislation to reauthorize programs that will help the nation move away from dependence on foreign oil.  Senator Akaka also introduced the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Reauthorization Act of 2005, which reauthorizes the methane hydrate research and development program through FY 2010.

Senator Akaka's support for ethanol as a renewable source of energy resulted in $36 million for demonstration projects to convert sugar cane into ethanol.  It is also resulted in a loan guarantee program that will help our state ethanol manufacturers capitalize their production facilities for sugar cane-to-ethanol at $50 million per project.

Senator Akaka also opposed providing liability waivers for manufacturers of the gas additive Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) because it would leave it to counties and cities to pay for the cleanup of groundwater contamination, and because it is just bad public policy.

Back to top Back to top