Maui Discussion

Kāko’o Haleakalā calls for the removal of telescopes following diesel fuel spill on Maui

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The Maui Space Surveillance System is located near the summit of Haleakala and includes the Air Force Maui Optical Station and deep space surveillance assets. File photo by Wendy Osher.

The Hawaiian rights group, Kākoʻo Haleakalā, is calling for the removal of “all telescopes” from both Haleakalā on Maui and Maunakea on Hawaiʻi Island. This comes following recent reports of a 700 gallon diesel fuel spill at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex near the summit of Haleakalā.

The group said the spill incident, which occurred on the night on Sunday, Jan. 29 into Monday morning, Jan. 30, constituted an “abuse ʻāina” and showcased a “lack of human decency” toward Hawai’i’s sacred places, natural resources and its people.

Members of the group have been vocal opponents of the construction of both the Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope on Maui and the Thirty Meter Telescope on Hawaiʻi Island, staging demonstrations during planning and construction convoys dating back to 2015.


“Kākoʻo Haleakalā remains steadfast that no further desecration should take place atop this, or any other mountain,” the group said in a news release.

The comments come ahead of a press briefing planned on Monday by Brigadier General Anthony Mastalir, commander of the US Space Forces Indo-Pacific, in which an update will be shared on the Maui Space Surveillance Complex diesel fuel spill remediation plan. 

The Air Force released information on the incident on Tuesday evening, Jan. 31, saying the cause of the failure is under review and that notifications were made to the Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.


“We understand the importance of being good stewards of the environment and will work with necessary state and federal officials as we begin clean-up efforts,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir in a news release earlier this week. 

During a site visit on Thursday, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen, Jr. said Brig. Gen. Mastalir had conveyed that “the Space Force understands its responsibility” and “is committed to full accountability for remediation and repair.”

Mayor Bissen also emphasized the sacredness of Haleakalā saying it “cannot be minimized and that the reverence of this wahi pana requires respectful, thorough and complete attention.”

  • Mayor Richard Bissen, Jr. and his executive team discuss the current status of the diesel fuel spill at the Maui Surveillance Complex atop the Haleakalā summit. (From left: Leo Caires, Chief of Staff; Colonel Michal D. Holliday, Space Force; Mayor Richard Bissen, Jr.; Kekuhaupio “Keku” Akana, Managing Director; Mahina Martin, Chief of Communications and Public Affairs) PC: Gaylord Paul Garcia/County of Maui
  • Leo Caires, Mayor Bissen’s Chief of Staff, talks with Richard Chong, Deputy Chief of the 15th Space Surveillance Squadron, and Mayor Richard Bissen, Jr.  during the site visit. PC: Gaylord Paul Garcia/County of Maui
  • Mahina Martin and Kekuhaupio “Keku” Akana discuss the diesel fuel spill with Colonel Holliday. PC: Gaylord Paul Garcia/County of Maui
  • Mayor Richard Bissen, Jr. receives an overview and initial assessment about the incident that occurred on Sunday, Jan. 29 from Colonel Michal D. Holliday of the Space Force.  PC: Gaylord Paul Garcia/County of Maui
  • Mayor Richard Bissen, Jr. and his executive team arrive at the Maui Space Surveillance Complex on Thursday, Feb. 2.  PC: Gaylord Paul Garcia/County of Maui
  • A view of the Maui Space Surveillance Complex from the Haleakalā visitor center on Thursday, Feb. 2. PC: Gaylord Paul Garcia/County of Maui

During a Spotlight Hawaiʻi interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Friday, the mayor said he was not aware of any video from the actual incident, but has requested that video be taken of the actual remediation going forward for transparency.

He said the Military is evaluating methods for remediation and has already set up absorbent materials around the impacted area, which he said was located in the vicinity of an emergency generator unit.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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