US Military Stonewalling on Hazardous Hawaii Fuel Facility

Ann Wright responds to a “caution” buried in a voluminous national security law about what might prevent the closure of the U.S. military’s spill-prone Red Hill jet-fuel tanks. 

U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda with officials from Joint Task Force-Red Hill during a congressional delegation visit to the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Halawa, Hawaii, Feb. 23. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Orlando Corpuz)

By Ann Wright
in Honolulu

Buried deep in the 4,408 pages of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is  a “hidden” caution concerning the closing and de-fueling of the Red Hill jet fuel tanks, a source of drinking water contamination in 2021.   

According to March 5 reporting by the Honolulu Star Advertiser, the DNAA requires that before defueling of the Red Hill jet fuel tanks, a certification from DOD is required, saying that closing Red Hill will not affect Indo-Pacific military operations.  

For citizens here this is alarming. This requirement should not be surfacing months after the passage of the NDAA.

Despite intense public interest in the defueling and closing of the Red Hill facilities, Sen. Mazie Hirono made no mention of this in her December 2022 press release 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 quotes Hirono saying 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 on Signing the Certification

Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors, which base at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

The military certainly didn’t mention the certification requirement either. 

The Defense Department has been making extensive repairs to the tanks that it 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.

This repair work coupled with the department’s plans to keep the tank and pipe infrastructure in the ground after defueling, has raised concerns.  Could the fuel facility be used again by the U.S. military despite its 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 U.S. and NATO naval armadas in the South China Sea and large ground military war games on the Korean peninsula, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s decision to not yet sign the certification is an indication that DOD could again play its national security card.


Admiral John Wade, commander of the Red Hill Joint Task Force, said he would be forthcoming about the clean-up of the multiple disasters at Red Hill. But neither he nor his staff have won trust with the community.

In addition to keeping silent on the certification requirement, the task force has failed to issue timely statements on events concerning Red Hill contamination and defueling, as well as the recent spill of 1,300 gallons of AFFF/PFAS.  The last press release on the spill  was two months ago, on Dec. 27, 2022. 

The Navy has not made the video of the AFFF spill public and has not completed its investigation of the spill, requiring an extension from the Department of Health. Nor has the task force revealed where the 3,000 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.

Ann Wright is a retired U.S. Army reserve colonel and a former U.S. diplomat.  She resigned from the U.S. government 20 years ago in opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq.  She has lived in Honolulu for 20 years.  She is a member of Hawaii Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace and Oahu Water Protectors and the author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

6 comments for “US Military Stonewalling on Hazardous Hawaii Fuel Facility

  1. Renate
    March 16, 2023 at 17:40

    So many ways to fool people.

  2. Lois Gagnon
    March 16, 2023 at 17:31

    Another sacrifice zone for US war profiteering. Hawaii never even agreed to become a US state and yet their land is being contaminated by the US military. We just traipse around the globe doing whatever we want wherever we want to whomever we want. Who will stop this madness?

  3. JonnyJames
    March 16, 2023 at 14:51

    Thanks to Col. Ann Wright and CN for covering this story. This is a tragedy and an outrage, but sadly typical. The US military has been wreaking havoc on the islands for many decades.

    The US illegally seized Hawai’i in 1893, deposed Queen Liliuokalani and took over the place. The indigenous culture and language was brutally suppressed (sounds very familiar) and rich haoles from overseas kicked the indigenous folks off their lands.

    The ethnic cleansing of Hawai’i is actually accelerating. There are now more native Hawaiians in the Las Vegas area than in Hawaii itself. Filthy rich oligarchs like Larry Ellison (“owns” the ENTIRE island of Lanai) Mark Suckerbird, and others have bought up huge tracts of land – the price of real estate in Hawaii has been inflated and driven up to the highest levels in the so-called USA.

    Indigenous people have to pay outrageous prices to buy or rent land that really belongs to them, but they have to pay some mainland oligarch extortion to live on their own land. Thousands have been forced to leave the islands and go live in a cheap, desolate area like Las Vegas. Very few people recognize this, or talk about it, but it is an absolute outrage.

    The Kingdom of Hawaii should be returned to the rightful owners and absentee mainland oligarchs’ land should be returned to the indigenous population. (Of course, that aint gonna happen)

    • Rebecca Turner
      March 17, 2023 at 03:52

      Do I own Britain because I was born here? Neither monarchism nor nationalist chauvinism are solutions to land ownership in nations in thrall to capital. The USA, like the UK, is closer to an oligarchy than a democracy but the solution, as ever, is socialism for the people who create all the wealth: the working class.

      • JonnyJames
        March 17, 2023 at 12:28

        I’m not sure your point, are you excusing capitalism, imperialism, racism and ethnic cleansing in Hawaii? Perhaps you are not familiar with the history or missed my point altogether.

  4. Rebecca Turner
    March 16, 2023 at 12:56

    Perhaps it is time that the American people realised that they are living in a military state and have been doing so for a very long time. The interests of that state override the petty desires of ordinary people to live healthy lives in a clean environment. Endless war is the business of the USA – which makes it a fascist state by that measure.

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