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US senators urge defense department to pick commander to head defueling at Red Hill

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Senator Hirono and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Tour Red Hill as part of week-long Congressional Delegation Trip highlighting Hawaiʻi’s strategic importance to the US military. PC: Office of US Sen. Mazie Hirono. (File: April 2022)

US Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono of Hawai’i are urging the US Department of Defense to name a commander that will be in charge of defueling the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.

Schatz said the Secretary of Defense “must act quickly and name its commander, a role that will serve as the DoD’s on-the-ground leader responsible for working with state and local officials to safely refuel the tanks.”

Hirono added, “This Commander should be a leader who is committed to transparency, collaboration, and garnering community trust to get the job done. We all share one goal —safely defueling and permanently closing the Red Hill facility as quickly as possible…”


Congressman Ed Case said the defueling plan must be fully reviewed and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and the state as part of a full and appropriate
independent oversight of the process.

“Full transparency and public input remain critical to maximize a successful result and regain public trust,” Case said.

Their statements follow an announcement of an updated plan Wednesday that now projects completing defueling by July, 2024.


The Department of Defense said its team of experts condensed the duration of the final phase of defueling from eight months to five months.

“Moving forward, the DoD will continue to identify opportunities to accelerate timelines without sacrificing safety,” the department said.

The updated plan’s “Supplement 1.A” includes information on the Department’s unpacking plan, infrastructure repairs and enhancements, training updates, schedule updates, and general comments.


The Department said it plans to provide the state of Hawaiʻi Department of Health with an additional defueling plan supplement later this month — a supplement that incorporates analysis from recent and expected studies that the DoD did not receive in time to address in Supplement 1.A.

The Department said if the additional supplement and findings affect the defueling plan and its timelines, the next supplement will provide supporting details.

“This plan represents considerable work by our DoD and Navy team along with the regulators, and we remain completely focused on the safe and expeditious defueling of the facility,” said Rear Adm. Steve Barnett, commander, Navy Region Hawaiʻi. “As we move forward, we will continually refine and improve this plan, and keep stakeholders and the community informed throughout the process. Every action we take must protect the environment and the community.”

More information on the defueling work, including the updated plan, can be found at:


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