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DOD to appeal state’s emergency order to empty Red Hill fuel tanks

The state Health Department said the announcement is "yet another breach of trust between the Navy and the people of Hawaii."
Published: Jan. 31, 2022 at 5:03 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 31, 2022 at 11:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a decision that drew swift rebuke from state officials and members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation, the Department of Defense said it will appeal the state’s emergency order to empty the Red Hill underground fuel storage tanks.

In a statement posted online Monday, deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said she discussed the DOD’s plans with the governor and stressed negotiations are ongoing.

She said appeals in federal and state court would be filed Wednesday ― the deadline set by the state.

“This will afford us time to make evidence-based and transparent decisions,” Hicks said.

“Despite these legal process requirements, we hope to collaborate with the state of Hawaii in a way that would allow the parties the time and space needed to reach solutions together.”

The state Health Department called the DOD’s decision disappointing.

“The Navy committed to Congress and in multiple public forums that it would comply with the emergency order,” said deputy Director of Environmental Health Kathleen Ho.

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“Today’s announcement that they intend to appeal the emergency order is yet another breach of trust between the Navy and the people of Hawaii. We will continue our fight in court to force the Navy to render the Red Hill facility safe.”

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, also said the DOD’s decision undermines public trust.

“Fortunately, we have civilian oversight of the military, and this inexplicable and maddening resistance to the defuel order will not succeed. They will lose in court, and they will lose in Congress,” he said.

Tina Grandinetti with Oahu Water Protectors has been busy putting up signs demanding the Red Hill fuel tanks be removed. She called the military’s decision heartless.

“What they’re really telling us is that they care more about their fuel and their money and their military power than the lives of every single person on Oahu,” said Grandinetti.

The Sierra Club of Hawaii said it wants the military to relocate the fuel before further damage is done.

“There’s some hope that at some point, we’ll be able to verify that it’s safe to turn our wells back on,” said Wayne Tanaka, director of the Sierra Club. “But until that time, we’re looking at water restrictions, mandates, things that will have real impacts in our lives.”

The Board of Water Supply told lawmakers Monday that water restrictions this summer could even curb building projects.

Meanwhile, Hicks said the military will meet a deadline to submit a work plan for a third party to assess the facility’s operations. She added that permanently closing the facility remains on the table.

“We continue to take actions to address the November release and contamination, including the restoration of safe drinking water,” she said.

“And we have launched a thorough review of the facility’s long-term future, to include the option of permanently defueling Red Hill.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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