Plans for fuel storage facilities in the Pacific could offer alternatives to Red Hill

The facility comes as the Navy is trying to determine how to remove fuel from Red Hill.
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 5:41 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 25, 2022 at 5:45 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the Navy tries to figure out how to remove fuel from its Red Hill facility, the U.S. government just started construction on a new bulk fuel storage site in Australia.

It’s an above-ground facility that could offer a blueprint for solving Hawaii’s contamination problem.

The military has said that Red Hill is strategically important in the Pacific, but concedes there could be alternatives.

U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele told HNN there are about a dozen fuel facilities in the Pacific that the military wants to build.

Work has already started on a $270 million bulk storage fuel facility in Darwin, Australia’s Northern Territory to support military defense in the area and the Indo-Pacific region.

With capacity to hold nearly 80 million gallons of fuel, it has about a third the capacity of Red Hill.

Crowley Solutions has a multi-year contract with the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency-Energy and construction is expected to be completed in 2023.

Kahele says the military’s Pacific Deterrence Initiative calls for building more fuel storage facilities.

“The PDI has called for an increase of about a dozen bulk fuel storage sites throughout the Pacific. Most of them probably all of them being above ground so I think this is one of them,” he said.

Kahele says partnering with allies like Australia is part of the U.S. strategy since it’s on the edge of the threat ring from North Korea and China.

Gov. David Ige said the state doesn’t know where fuel from Red Hill could be stored.

“That’s actually one reason why our emergency order required them to empty all the fuel,” said Ige.

“We wanted them to go through the exercise of what would be required and other locations that they could store fuel for aircraft or ships so they can make an assessment on how they would be able to operate without Red Hill in their operations,” he added.

The Navy has until Feb. 2 to deliver a plan to the state Health Department.

“I firmly believe that the Navy will comply with the emergency order,” said Kahele.

But lawmakers are worried about the timeline.

“Even I’m saying shut the damn thing down, and I was a Marine,” said Republican state Rep. Bob McDermott.

“The good news is we hope they can take some of our fuel right and that’s the idea move it forward to the Pacific,” he added.

Democratic state Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole toured Red Hill recently and is chair of the Senate Committee on Health that will consider a bill Wednesday to ban underground storage tanks.

“We are in a situation where we could be rationing water on Oahu this summer. I’m talking about not being able to water plants or wash cars or shower at the beach,” said Keohokalole.

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