Above photo: U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda walks with officials from Joint Task Force-Red Hill (JTF-RH) during a Congressional Delegation (CODEL) visit to the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility (RHBFSF) in Halawa, Hawaii, Feb. 23, 2023. U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Orlando Corpuz.
Buried deep in the 4,408 pages of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (DNAA) was a “hidden” caution concerning the closing and defueling of the Red Hill jet fuel tanks, that upon the caution coming to light, is giving citizens heartburn…and a scare.
According to the March 5, 2023 Honolulu Star Advertiser article, titled “Military spending act stirs defueling concerns,” the DNAA REQUIRES, before defueling of the Red Hill jet fuel tanks, a certification from DOD that closing Red Hill will not affect Indo-Pacific military operations.
At this point, 4 months after the passage of the NDAA and until the March 5 Star Advertiser article, despite intense public interest in the defueling and closing of the Red Hill facilities, neither Senator Hirono, Senator Brian Schatz nor Representative Case mentioned the certification requirement in their press releases about the $1 billion for the defueling and closure of Red Hill and $800 million for other military infrastructure upgrades in Hawaii passed in the NDAA for 2023.
The Star Advertiser article states that Hawaii’s Senator Mazie Hirono said she “didn’t advocate for the notification requirement,” but her office said it was a priority of the Republicans and was agreed to as a compromise to ensure Hirono’s other Red Hill provisions made it in to the NDAA.
No DOD Decision to Sign the Certification
The military certainly didn’t mention the certification requirement either.
The extensive repairs that DOD maintains are necessary to safely defuel the tanks, repairs that were not considered necessary in using fuel from the tanks prior to the November 2021 spill, coupled with DOD’s plans to keep the tank and pipe infrastructure in the ground after defueling of the tanks, has raised concerns that the fuel facility could be used again by DOD despite military officials saying they plan to make the tanks unusable for fuel storage.
With comments about Chinese aggression coming daily from the Department of Defense and State Department officials, the multiple US and NATO naval armadas in the South China Sea and large ground military war games on the Korean peninsula, Secretary of Defense Austin’s decision to not yet sign the certification is an indication that DOD will again plays its national security card.
Where is the Transparency?
Despite its protestations from the commander of the Red Hill Joint Task Force that he will be forthcoming and transparent about the clean-up of the multiple disasters at Red Hill, Admiral Wade and his staff have not succeeded in transparency or trust with the community
In addition to keeping silent on the certification requirement, the Task Force has not issued timely press releases on events concerning Red Hill contamination and defueling and the recent spill of 1300 gallons of AFFF/PFAS. The last press release on the AFFF/PFAS 1300 gallon spill was two months ago on December 27, 2022.
Where is the AFFF Spill Video and Where Did the 3,000 cubic feet of Contaminated Soil Go?
The Navy still has not made public the video of the AFFF spill and has not completed its investigation of the spill, requiring an extension from DOH. Nor has the Task Force revealed where the 3000 cubic feet of AFFF contaminated soil was moved either on Oahu or to the mainland. In contrast, the locations of disposal for the contaminated soil removed from the East Palestine, Ohio chemical train wreck was publicized immediately and several states objected to disposal in their toxic waste locations.
Our government officials, military and civilian, have a long way to go before they are trusted by the public!
Please tweet @SecDef Austin to immediately certify that Red Hill jet fuel tanks can be defueled.
Ann Wright is a retired US Army Reserve Colonel and a former US diplomat. She resigned from the US government twenty years ago in opposition to the US war on Iraq. She has lived in Honolulu for twenty years. She is a member of Hawaii Peace and Justice, Veterans For Peace and Oahu Water Protectors.