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Sen. Brian Schatz secures $100M in federal funding to drain Red Hill fuel facility

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / JUNE 9
                                Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in June on Capitol Hill in Washington. Schatz announced today that his office had secured $100 million in new federal funding to cover the cost of defueling the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / JUNE 9

    Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, speaks during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in June on Capitol Hill in Washington. Schatz announced today that his office had secured $100 million in new federal funding to cover the cost of defueling the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz announced today that his office had secured $100 million in new federal funding to cover the cost of defueling the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility and direct the Department of Defense to comply with the state’s emergency public health order issued in December.

“This bill funds defueling, and it establishes Congress’s position on Red Hill: the DoD must defuel and follow the state’s order immediately,” Schatz said in a news release. “We still have more work to do, but we are making good progress to protect our water and get this right.”

Though the Navy has complied with several portions of the emergency order and is working to remediate the Red Hill well after a fuel spill contaminated its drinking water system that serves 93,000 people on Oahu, the service has continued to mount legal challenges to the defueling portion.

This month the Department of Justice announced it would take Hawaii to court to fight the order, though Pentagon officials said that they had not ruled out the possibility of permanent defueling.

The appropriation represents the first round of possible funding to defuel Red Hill. Schatz’s office said the senator is working with the Biden administration and the Senate Appropriations Committee to secure additional funding in the president’s annual budget request and a much-larger appropriations package expected to be taken up by Congress next month.

A companion bill in the House of Representatives contains provisions from U.S. Rep. Ed Case that include $100 million to implement the emergency order, $250 million to address drinking water contamination resulting from the Red Hill leak, and $53 million in existing general operational funding now directed specifically to Red Hill.

“It is highly unusual to include new funding in such a continuing resolution and is reserved for truly urgent matters that cannot await the normal appropriations process,” Case said in a news release. “This initiative to include desperately-needed Red Hill funding was led by Senator Schatz, who negotiated the funding request with the executive branch and his Senate colleagues. I contributed to securing agreement within the U.S. House and our Appropriations Committee, where all federal appropriations must originate.”

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The full bill text of Schatz’s funding measure included in the Senate appropriations bill follows:

In addition to amounts otherwise provided by this Act, there is appropriated to the Department of Defense $100,000,000, for an additional amount for fiscal year 2022, to remain available until expended, for transfer only to accounts under the headings ‘Operation and Maintenance’, ‘Procurement’, ‘Research, Development, Test and Evaluation’, and ‘Defense Working Capital Funds’, for the Secretary of Defense to conduct activities in compliance with the State of Hawai‘i Department of Health Order 21-UST-EA-02, signed December 6, 2021, related to the removal of fuel from and improvement of infrastructure at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility: Provided, That the transfer authority provided in this subsection is in addition to any other transfer authority available to the Department of Defense: Provided further, That amounts provided in this subsection shall not be available for transfer, obligation, or expenditure until the Secretary of Defense briefs the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and Senate regarding the recommendations of the third-party assessment of the operations and system integrity of the Red Hill facility and the Department’s own analysis regarding the distribution of fuel reserves for operations in the Pacific theater, as well as other activities recommended by the third-party assessment or Departmental analysis: Provided further, That not less than 15 days prior to any transfer of funds pursuant to this section, the Secretary of Defense shall notify the congressional defense committees of the details of any such transfer: Provided further, That not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the Further Additional Continuing Appropriations Act, 2022 and every 30 days thereafter through fiscal year 2023, the Secretary of Defense shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and Senate, setting forth all categories and amounts of obligations and expenditures made under the authority provided by this subsection.

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