Navy announces it will defuel, permanently close Red Hill

Posted on Mar 29, 2022 in Capitol Connection, Featured, Main
Governor Ige praised the decision to close Red Hill in response to the state’s emergency order.

Governor Ige praised the decision to close Red Hill in response to the state’s emergency order.

The news was stunning and a major win for the state: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III announced on March 7 that the Navy will defuel and permanently close the Red Hill storage facility. “Throughout the process, we will work closely with the Hawai‘i Department of Health and with the Environmental Protection Agency to safely defuel the Red Hill facility,” he said. “No later than May 31, the Secretary of the Navy and the Director of the Defense Logistics Agency will provide an action plan for safe, expeditious defueling of the facility, with a completion target of 12 months.

“Then, as soon as we have made corrective actions to ensure that defueling is safe, we will begin defueling,” Austin continued. “Then we will move to permanently close the Red Hill facility, including conducting any and all necessary environmental remediation around the facility. This is the right thing to do.” Austin went on to say that Red Hill’s centrally-located bulk fuel storage made sense in 1943, when Red Hill was built, but “it makes a lot less sense now.” He said the military will move to a more dispersed fueling system for ships and aircraft in the Indo-Pacific.

oard of Water Supply manager Ernie Lau tours the Red Hill facility with Navy staff.

Board of Water Supply manager Ernie Lau tours the Red Hill facility with Navy staff.

Governor Ige applauded the decision, saying, “This is great news for the people of Hawai‘i. Our national defense begins with the health and safety of our people, and there are better solutions for strategic fueling today than there were when the Red Hill storage facility was built. We look forward to working with the Navy to safely defuel and permanently close the storage facility.”

The governor said the state will continue to be vigilant in court until the U.S. government’s appeal of the state’s emergency order is withdrawn. “It’s premature for us to stop fighting the lawsuit because they’re saying the state doesn’t have jurisdiction and oversight, and we want to make sure we don’t drop our guard. . . .We definitely will not rest until we’re certain that any danger to the water system or our community is mitigated and removed. The Navy created this situation so they need to ensure we have access to clean, fresh water for the future.”

Read more in the April Capitol Connection newsletter.

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