Senator Hirono Secures Federal Funding for Clean Energy Research and Development in Hawaii

Kampachi Farms and Makai Ocean Engineering Receive $1.5 Million to Harness Power of Seaweed as Potential Energy Source

Senator Mazie K. Hirono today announced that two Hawaii businesses will receive $1.5 million in U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding to develop offshore seaweed as a potential clean energy source. The funding was awarded through DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) program.

“These grants recognize the innovative work being done in Hawaii to research and develop renewable energy resources,” said Senator Hirono, member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “This funding will assess the viability of developing seaweed as an energy source, and explore how to use local resources to meet Hawaii’s renewable energy goals.”

Under the grant, Kampachi Farms in Kailua-Kona received $500,000 to develop an offshore seaweed production farm and test harvesting techniques for future use in renewable energy production.

“Marine agronomy – the culture of limu (seaweed) in oceanic conditions – offers potential for increased production of food, feeds and fuel,” said Neil Sims, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Kampachi Farms. “Using the power of the ocean’s primary production, we can increase availability of healthful food for people, feeds for fish and other animals, and biofuels for a carbon neutral planet, with minimal use of land, freshwater or artificial fertilizers. Offshore culture of limu connects innovative aquaculture with Hawaiian culinary traditions. It also offers – in our estimation – the only possible means of harnessing entrepreneurial resources to create incentives for countering ocean acidification.”

In addition, Makai Ocean Engineering in Honolulu will receive $995,978 to create a model that simulates the ocean to help researchers determine the proper design and estimate costs of offshore seaweed farming systems.

“Makai is thrilled to be selected for award alongside Kampachi Farms by ARPA-E under this innovative program,” said Duke Hartman, vice president of business development at Makai Ocean Engineering. “In addition to advancing the state of the art in macroalgae cultivation, Makai will be strengthening our expertise in technologies with many other applications, such as autonomous and underwater robotics, biological and oceanographic numerical modeling, and offshore engineering. This project builds on our 44 year track record of developing cutting-edge technologies and bringing high-paying, high-tech jobs home to Hawaii for our kamaaina.”

Senator Hirono continues to advocate for ARPA-E funding. Earlier this year, she wrote a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging for continued funding for ARPA-E after the President threatened to slash the program by $20 million in an effort to wind it down.

Statement of Support for U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono

House Speaker Scott Saiki released the following statement after hearing that U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono will be treated for kidney cancer.

“The members of the Hawaii House of Representatives send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to Senator Mazie Hirono as she battles kidney cancer,” said House Speaker Scott Saiki. “Senator Hirono is both strong in spirit and in her efforts to represent the people of Hawaii. We send our thoughts and prayers to her and her family.”

Senator Hirono Discusses Rebalance to the Pacific with Top Military and Defense Leaders

Senator Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, met this week with top military and defense leaders and discussed critical military issues including the rebalance to the Pacific, the harmful effects of sequestration, investments in sustainable energy technology and efforts to prevent and prosecute sexual assaults in the military. Hirono met separately with Admiral Harry Harris, who will take over as Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in October, and Deborah Lee James, who will serve as Secretary of the Air Force if confirmed.

Hirono with Admiral Harry Harris.

Hirono with Admiral Harry Harris.

“I appreciated the opportunity to get to know Admiral Harris and Ms. James, two outstanding leaders who will play key roles in our national defense,” Hirono said. “Admiral Harris will do an excellent job taking over for Admiral Haney as Commander of the Pacific Fleet and has a deep knowledge of our military’s needs in the Pacific. Ms. James is an extremely knowledgeable and qualified candidate to serve as Secretary of the Air Force, and she would become only the second woman in history to fill that position. I wish her a quick confirmation.”

Hirono was also able to share with Harris and James some of her experiences meeting with Asia-Pacific leaders during her national defense-focused congressional delegation to China, Japan and South Korea.

Admiral Harry Harris is the highest-ranking Japanese-American naval officer. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Harris has served in every geographic combatant command region and was assigned in 2011 as the assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Hirono with Deborah Lee James.

Hirono with Deborah Lee James.

Deborah Lee James is President of the Technology and Engineering Sector at Science Applications International Corporation. Her professional experience includes a decade as a staff member on the House Armed Services Committee and serving as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Business Executives for National Security. James was nominated by President Obama in August and the Senate Armed Services Committee is expected to vote on her nomination next week.

Headquartered at Oahu’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the U.S. Pacific Fleet plays a critical role in maintaining the security and economic interests of our nation and its allies in the Asia-Pacific Region. The fleet’s command covers 100 million square miles and is supported by approximately 200 marine vessels, nearly 1,100 aircraft and more than 140,000 sailors and civilians.

The U.S. Air Force has a major presence in Hawaii, with more than 9,500 active duty, National Guard and Reserve and civilian personnel.

Veterans Affairs Committee Approve Eight Bills That Help Hawaii Vets with Jobs, Care and Housing

Committee Also Included 3 Hirono Proposals That Will Have Big Impact For Hawaii Vets—Specifically Native Hawaiian Vets & Those Who Live On Hawaii Island

Veterans Affairs LogoSenator Mazie K. Hirono and her Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee colleagues voted to approve eight bills today that aim to help jobless vets find employment opportunities, improve assistance for homeless vets, improve care for female vets and keep benefits pegged to increases in the cost of living. The committee also approved three Hirono proposals that make it easier for Native Hawaiian vets and those who live on Hawaii Island to access programs that help veterans, as well as a measure similar to a Heller-Hirono bill that would help identify Filipino World War II vets who were wrongly denied compensation by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that was approved by Congress in 2009.

“The millions of veterans across our nation and the some 110,000 living in Hawaii have done so much to protect our freedom, yet too many struggle to find stable jobs, get adequate health care or even put a roof over their heads,” Hirono said. “These bipartisan measures approved by my colleagues would make progress in improving the lives of veterans by helping jobless vets find jobs, improving assistance for homeless vets and improving health care for female vets. I am also pleased the committee included three proposals I authored that will specifically improve programs for Native Hawaiian and Hawaii Island vets. I urge the full Senate and the House to quickly approve these measures so we can start giving our veterans the help they deserve.”

Yesterday Hirono introduced three amendments to help Hawaii’s veterans. Two of Hirono’s amendments would help unemployed Native Hawaiian and Hawaii Island veterans access programs to help get jobs. Another Hirono amendment would ensure that Native Hawaiian-serving organizations are eligible to be considered for public/private partnerships to assist homeless vets.

The Filipino WWII vets measure included in the package calls on the VA to review the process it uses to verify Filipino WWII veterans’ service and grant compensation provided by Congress in the 2009 Investment & Recovery Act. Many Filipino World War II veterans who applied for compensation could not meet the VA’s standards for documentation of their service, and this measure would allow the VA to work with the Department of Defense and military historians to help address various issues with the current process.

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 110,000 vets live in Hawaii. In 2012, the VA estimated 5.5% of Hawaii veterans were unemployed – a number that works out to more than 6,000 vets. In 2009, the VA estimated that Hawaii is home to almost 500 homeless veterans.

Below are summaries of the eight bills passed by the committee, as well as Hirono’s proposals that were included as amendments to two of the bills:

Putting Our Veterans Back to Work Act:
Reauthorizes the VOW to Hire Heroes Act and improves enforcement of employment and reemployment rights of members of the uniformed services. The bill also makes other changes to the law that increases employment opportunities for veterans. Hirono offered two amendments to this legislation.

  • HIRONO AMENDMENT: Outreach To Native Hawaiian Veterans For New Jobs Programs
    Native Hawaiian veterans and native veterans who do not live on tribal lands are not mentioned in the bill, which potentially excludes them from targeted outreach efforts. Hirono’s amendment essentially expands the scope of native veteran outreach to include organizations that serve these populations.
  • HIRONO AMENDMENT: Transportation Assistance For Hawaii Island Veterans In New Jobs Programs
    With more than 80 miles between towns like Hawi and Hilo, Hawaii Island’s geography can make transportation a challenge for some Hawaii veterans seeking to participate in new U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) employment assistance programs. Hirono’s amendment would enable veterans to receive transportation subsidies for commutes up to 150 miles to and from their job site.

Helping Homeless Veterans Act:
Improves assistance to homeless veterans by expanding the definition of “homeless veteran” to include those fleeing domestic violence and allows the VA to increase the number of veterans from transitional housing programs to permanent housing.

  • HIRONO AMENDMENT: Include Native Hawaiian Organizations For Public/Private Partnerships Providing Legal Services To Homeless Veterans
    Hirono’s amendment includes Native Hawaiian-serving organizations among the entities the VA can consider in distributing the partnerships with public/private entities to provide legal services to homeless veterans.

Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvements Act:
Improves the reproductive assistance provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs to severely wounded, ill, or injured veterans and their spouses by clarifying that fertility counseling and treatment, including through assisted reproductive technology, are included in the VA medical services package.

Veterans Health and Benefits Improvement Act:
Improves the provision of medical services and benefits to veterans. The bill also directs VA, in consultation with the Department of Defense, to review the process for determining whether certain individuals have the requisite service requirements for purposes of receiving specific Filipino veterans’ benefits.

Charlie Morgan Military Spouses Equal Treatment Act:
Adds a definition of spouse for purposes of veteran benefits to enable same-sex couples to be eligible for relevant VA spousal benefits.

Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act:
Extends VA’s Family Caregiver Program to all seriously injured veterans incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, regardless of era. Services include in-home and community based care, respite care, caregiver education and training programs and caregiver support groups.

Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act:
Increases the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans. The increase would be in accordance with the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index (CPI), the same index that determines the annual rate adjustments for Social Security benefits.

Veterans Second Amendment Protection Act:
Requires a judicial authority to make a determination that a VA beneficiary poses a danger to themselves or others before being added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.


Senator Mazie Hirono Announces $6.7 Million for Honolulu International Airport Upgrades

Senator Mazie K. Hirono today announced $6.7 million in federal funds for Honolulu International Airport. The U.S. Department of Transportation grant will fund the replacement of 12 existing passenger loading bridges in the Main Overseas Terminal that are outdated and have reached the end of their useful lives.
“Honolulu International Airport is Hawaii’s main connection to the mainland and the rest of the world,” Hirono said. “Today’s federal investment will help the airport make critical upgrades as the state continues to see growing numbers of international and domestic visitors. Since tourism is our state’s number one industry, anything we can do to promote travel to Hawaii is a step toward strengthening our economy and creating jobs.”

Built in 1927 and served by 27 international and domestic carriers, three interisland airlines and four commuter airlines, the airport is undergoing a number of modernization initiatives as visitor arrivals continue to rise. The airport hosts approximately 20 million passengers each year.

Hirono has been working closely with her Senate colleagues to get funding for major Hawaii transportation initiatives. Later this week, the Senate is expected to approve legislation that would fund many other transportation and housing initiatives – including full funding for the Honolulu High Capacity Transit Corridor Project for the 2014 fiscal year, support for Kalaupapa air travel and funding for Native Hawaiian Housing initiatives.


Senator Mazie Hirono Details How Climate Change is Already Having a Significant Impact on Hawaii

Senator Mazie K. Hirono warned that climate change is already having a significant impact on Hawaii and without coordinated government action will greatly harm the state’s well-being in the future during a hearing held by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Hirono Climate Change

At the hearing, titled “Climate Change: It’s Happening Now,” climate scientists and other experts testified on how climate change is already having an effect on U.S. weather patterns which in turn is leading to more frequent extreme weather and is negatively impacting communities and industries. This was Hirono’s first hearing as a member of the committee since being tapped temporarily to fill the vacancy left after New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg’s death.


“Climate change is the great challenge of our time. In Hawaii, we are already seeing the impact of climate change—both on land and in the ocean that surrounds us,” Hirono testified. “Rising ocean temperatures, sea level rise, and ocean acidification pose serious risks to our economy and communities. For example, the sea level has risen in Hawaii at rate of 0.6 inches per decade over the past century. Research indicates that sea level may increase by 3 feet by the end of the century. This means that areas like Waikiki—a critical driver of Hawaii’s tourism economy—are likely to face serious flooding if sea level rise intensifies.”

Hirono noted that while Hawaii has seen a decrease in overall rainfall that it depends on for fresh water over the past twenty years, the state has seen a large increase in very heavy downpours that have caused major flooding. She detailed how the State of Hawaii is already taking action to respond to climate change but that national and global efforts are needed to truly address the problem.

“Hawaii has taken an aggressive approach toward addressing climate change. We have passed state laws limiting greenhouse gas emissions, promoting clean energy and energy efficiency, and a law to address climate change adaptation. These efforts are forward-looking, but support on the federal level is needed,” Hirono said.

Mazie Hirono speaks with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

Mazie Hirono speaks with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

During the hearing, Hirono also questioned Reinsurance Association of America President Frank Nutter about how insurance companies are dealing with the increased threat of major weather events that climate change is causing. Nutter testified that the increasing severity of storms is causing rates to go up, especially in communities prone to flooding. Hirono cited the cautionary example of Hurricane Iniki, which caused such severe damage that the Hawaii government was forced to create the Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund when insurance companies stopped writing and renewing hurricane insurance policies in Hawaii.

Hirono also voted today to confirm Gina McCarthy, President Obama’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I am glad that my colleagues finally voted to confirm Gina McCarthy as EPA Administrator. McCarthy has a long record of fighting for cleaner air and energy efficiency, and she will serve as an important leader in our nation’s fight against climate change,” Hirono said after the vote.

Kona Rep. Nichole Lowen Thanks Senator Mazie Hirono for Securing Federal Funds to Fight Coffee Berry Borer

Representative Nicole Lowen (Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokohau) today praised U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono for successfully securing $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to fight the coffee berry borer beetle that has been a blight on Hawaii Island coffee growers for the past three years.

Senator Nicole Lowen

Rep. Nicole Lowen

This past legislative session, Representative Lowen introduced and guided HB 353 through the State Legislature.  It was signed into law on June 26th, and will provide $800,000 in state money for mitigation of the coffee borer infestation.

“Thanks to Senator Hirono, the additional million dollars from the USDA coupled with the $800,000 in state funding and other resources will enable us to launch an offensive against this destructive insect before it decimates our coffee industry.  The industry brings in about $30 million dollars annually, and is an important part of Hawaii’s cultural heritage. We need to do all that we can to protect its viability.  I will continue to work with the State Legislature and with our congressional delegation to further preserve our coffee industry,” said Rep. Lowen.

Senator Mazie Hirono Unveils “Virtual Office” to Communicate with Constituents

Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono unveiled her new virtual office to better serve the constituents of Hawaii. The new permanent website offers an online space for constituents to request important assistance from Hirono’s office. It also provides an easy and convenient way for families to get in touch with Hirono and have their voice heard on key issues facing the state and the nation. You can navigate to the website by clicking here:

Click to see Mazie's Virtual Office.

Click to see Senator Hirano’s virtual office.

“With our beautiful chain of islands stretching more than 1,500 miles from Niihau to Hawaii Island and nearly 5,000 miles separating our state from the nation’s capital, this new virtual office allows me to serve Hawaii residents across this great state no matter where I may be. The new website is the easiest and fastest way for Hawaii residents to get in touch with me and make their voices heard on critical issues facing the state and nation. Constituents can also request help from me and my office in a number of areas – from information on internships to help with a federal agency.”

Under the “How Can I Help?” tab, constituents can request help with navigating a federal agency, obtain internship information, make flag requests, nominate a young person to be a Senate Page, request help with dealing with the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs and request to schedule a meeting with Hirono or a member of her office.

By clicking the “Contact” tab, Hawaii constituents can send Hirono a message detailing their views on issues facing the state and the country. With standard security measures in place for postal mail sent to Hirono’s office, this online portal is the fastest way for constituents to be heard or request assistance from Hirono. Here, anyone can also sign-up to receive e-newsletters from Hirono.

Senator Hirono remains active on YouTube.  Click to view her YouTube Channel.

Senator Hirono remains active on YouTube. Click to view her YouTube Channel.

The new website also provides a place where the Hawaii residents can also learn more about Hirono, her life and what motivates her to fight for the state. They can also read about how she is fighting in the Senate on issues critical for Hawaii and keep abreast of her legislative work. Users can also navigate to Hirono’s Twitter and YouTube pages and view exclusive photo and video content.


Senator Mazie Hirono on Immigration Reform

Senator Mazie K. Hirono hosted a roundtable discussion with community leaders about how comprehensive immigration reform could impact Hawaii. Among the 20 attendees included immigration law specialists, children’s advocates, philanthropic organizations and immigration justice activists. The meeting was the first of a series of events this week where Hirono will discuss how her work in the Senate impacts Hawaii residents.

Click to sign letter

Click to sign letter

“After listening to these local immigration experts, I was struck by their stories of how central families are to an immigrant’s success,” Hirono remarked after the event. “These professionals and activists serve on the front lines of the issue in Hawaii, helping immigrants wade through the bureaucratic red tape and see firsthand the challenges our immigration system poses for families.”

At the meeting, Hirono listened as participants spoke of their own daily experiences dealing with the immigration system and discussed ways immigration reform could make their jobs easier.

“What I thought was so great about the meeting is how many different voices from the community were here — the people from Micronesia, people with medical issues related to immigration, the immigration services community,” participant John Robert Egan, a Honolulu immigration attorney, remarked after the event. “It’s so great to get so many voices around the table and have a free interchange with the Senator.”

Mazie Poster on Immigration

Participants also spoke up on how important Hirono’s fight for the family immigration system is as the Senate takes up immigration legislation in the coming weeks.

“Senator Hirono showed understanding of the community’s needs and where we are in terms of advocating for the issues. Hopefully, she will be able to get support from the other senators because this really means so much, not only for Hawaii, but for the rest of the country,” remarked participant Melba Bantay, Program Director for Immigration Services at Catholic Charities Hawaii.

After spending three months in the United States Senate and joining key discussions on national security, economic issues, immigration reform and other matters important to Hawaii, Senator Hirono is meeting with Hawaii residents this week to discuss how her work in the Senate impacts them.