State lawmakers blast Navy on ‘incomplete’ plan to defuel Red Hill
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State lawmakers grilled Navy leaders Tuesday on their plan to empty the underground Red Hill fuel tanks, saying the document was thin on details ― and key dates.
“The concern is that this defueling plan that you folks went ahead and presented troubles me that it was so incomplete, missing plans, missing details,” said state. Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, at a legislative briefing. “You seem to have experts on your side. The plan is so disappointing. It is so critical, yet so incomplete.”
Last week, the state Health Department also came out against the plan, saying they plan to reject it.
Navy leaders say before 104 million gallons of fuel can be taken out of the Red Hill fuel facility, fuel needs to be taken out of the pipelines that go from Red Hill to Pearl Harbor so the pipelines can be repaired.
Defueling could be completed by the end of 2024, they say.
“The intention is not to delay the defueling. I understand your concern, but the intent was to have a framework,” said Rear Admiral Stephen Barnett, commander of Navy Region Hawaii.
“We have to complete those repairs. I understand your concern about the timeline, but we plan on taking the most conservative route because we do not want to waste any fuel or harm the environment,” he added.
Lawmakers questioned why the fuel couldn’t be pumped out of the tanks themselves rather than sent down the pipelines to Pearl Harbor.
“The Navy doesn’t seem to have the sense of urgency that my constituents have, that the state of Hawaii has,” said state Rep. Sonny Ganaden.
“If we intend to never use Red Hill again why are we going to fix the place. Why are we going to fix that place to scrap it altogether,” he asked.
The Navy says pumping directly out of the tanks would be too risky.
Hawaii News Now first reported last week that the state intends to reject the plan.
On Tuesday, health regulators said it had an incomplete timeline, missing plans and missing details.
“The plan is going to be rejected because it lacks detail. It refers to reports that are still being developed,” said Health Department Deputy Director Kathleen Ho.
The Navy says it will have an updated defueling plan in August.
The Navy also mentioned an eight-month delay because of supply chain issues and officials said they may have to look into the Defense Production Act to speed up the process.
DOH says an official letter to the Navy rejecting its plan will likely be sent this week.
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