Hawaii’s congressional delegation has introduced legislation that would require the Navy to cease fueling operations at Red Hill, drain all the tanks by the end of this year and permanently decommission the facility. The bills, introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate, also require the military to reimburse Hawaii for the costs the state and local governments have incurred as a result of the current water contamination.
U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele, who took the lead at a press conference at the Hawaii State Capitol today to announce the legislation, detailed the toll the November water contamination has taken on military and civilian residents at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and the surrounding neighborhoods.
He said members of the military, including himself, “serve willingly and honorably because we believe we are keeping our country safe, and in turn, our country will keep our military families safe.”
“The military has failed to keep this commitment,” said Kahele. “They have not only failed to keep our military families safe, but they have endangered all of our families on the island of Oahu. The sole source aquifer of Oahu is now tainted with fuel. We still do not know if or when it will ever be pristine again.”
Kahele said that the Navy has “shown repeatedly that they are ill-equipped and incapable of making Red Hill safe.”
The legislation also requires the Navy to install permanent water treatment and water testing facilities.
U.S. Rep. Ed Case, who partnered with Kahele to introduce the legislation, said that the risk that Red Hill poses to the Oahu’s drinking water will not abate.
“It is clear that this risk won’t and can’t change under any current configuration or operation, or any future configuration or operation of Red Hill, as a bulk fuel storage facility,” said Case.
In a historic speech today, members of the congressional delegation, including @RepKahele and @CongressmanEd, spoke on the new bill to shut down the Red Hill fuel tanks. #shutdownredhill #watercrisis #hawaii #redhill #newbill #Congress #oahuhawaii #hinews #hawaiinews #fueltank pic.twitter.com/pZT7MasNPc
— Hawaii House Republicans (@hihousegop) February 12, 2022
He said that rather than prolong the state’s permitting process for Red Hill, current litigation over the state’s emergency defueling order, or engaging in “endless analysis about whether Red Hill can continue in some way, shape or form,” it’s time for Congress to step in and require the facility be shut down.
Joining Kahele and Case were numerous state legislators, Honolulu Board of Water Supply chief engineer and manager Ernie Lau and Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi.
Blangiardi has faced criticism for not speaking out on the issue of Red Hill since jet fuel from the facility contaminated the Navy’s drinking water system last year and prompted the Honolulu Board of Water Supply to shut down three of its municipal wells as a precaution.
Blangiardi said that his lack of comment on the issue “got twisted,” and that he’s now been better briefed on the situation. He said that he supports defueling the tanks “with no apprehension, with no reservation.”
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz introduced the companion to the House bill.
“Together we will work to secure federal funding to defuel, conduct congressional oversight, and push for legislation. Our bicameral bill will help us in our fight to protect our water and shut down Red Hill,” Schatz said in a statement.
Earlier this week, Schatz secured $100 million in federal funds for defueling Red Hill, which was included in a short-term spending bill that could be signed into law by President Joe Biden as soon as next week.
U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono is the only member of Hawaii’s delegation not to be a signatory to the proposed federal legislation. Hirono said in a statement released today that she supports the ongoing deliberations over the fate of Red Hill that are playing out at the state level. The Hawaii Department of Health is currently debating whether to issue the Navy a permit to continue operating the fuel facility.
“The people of Hawaii deserve a resolution to the Red Hill crisis as quickly as possible, including a decision regarding the potential closing of Red Hill. The fastest way to do this is through the state of Hawaii’s power and authority in its ongoing hearing to determine whether to provide or deny the Navy a permit to operate Red Hill,” said Hirono.
“I will fully support the Hawaii Department of Health’s final permit decision, which will likely deny a permit to continue operations at Red Hill. Yesterday, I asked President Biden to also support the state’s permit decision.”
Hirono said that as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee she will also work to prevent any federal funding from going to Red Hill if the Navy doesn’t have a state permit to continue operating the facility.