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Wednesday, March 16, 2022
McDermott: DoD Red Hill Closure Memo 'a vague non-binding promise'
By Rep Bob McDermott @ 11:15 PM :: 2512 Views :: Honolulu County, Environment, Congressional Delegation, Military


News Release from Office of Rep Bob McDermott, March 16, 2022

It is not a law that I have advocated for repeatedly; it does not have the force of law.  Rather, Austin's memo is a flimsy election-year posturing piece. This is on behalf of fellow Democrat Schatz who was holding Department of Defense appointees in limbo, those requiring Senate Confirmation, from moving forward.  Austin was forced to give Schatz something and Schatz secured a vague promise out into the future that is non-binding with no funds for closure.  Conversely, the Omnibus spending Bill is quite detailed in what it funds, and funds for Decommissioning are missing.

1. Austin’s memo does not have the force of Law.

2. Austin’s memo has no estimated target completion date of decommissioning.

3. Omnibus Bill does not specify any funds for Closure, only to Defuel, infrastructure repairs and remediation.

4. Omnibus Bill states that the DOD will prepare a new report looking at ALL (emphasis added) options for fuel storage, logically including status quo.

5. Any notion of closure has to rely on future congresses as this was not included in the Omnibus Spending Bill.

Austin's memo is a good idea but lacks critical details and the backing needed as he is a political appointee who can be replaced as the Administration changes and with it his promise outlined in the memo disappears.  It is missing a start date, and end date.  All we have is a date – May 31st of when a plan will be due. 

The plan will not be implemented until the facility is deemed safe for defueling (which makes sense) but without a target completion date this could stretch on to 2032 or beyond leaving the risk of further leaks unaddressed.

The plan is dependent on continued congressional funding for this project which is not a guarantee.  As opposed to a law that Congress is statutorily required to fund. This gives me great pause as the Republicans are going to take both chambers of Congress next year and the Hawaii Senators have not shown they can work in a bipartisan fashion. 

Schatz has repeatedly been late to the game, not calling for a Shutdown until February 7th!  He kept calling for defueling which is not a shutdown.  His lack of insight and clarity cost us about 5 months of delays as opposed to my publicly calling for a Shutdown last October. 

The self-congratulatory back-slapping over the $686 million to the DOD to remediate the environment and Defuel (as opposed to Decommission) only makes the DOD and families whole.

 There is no money for closure, let alone the $4B to $10B required to effectively halt and eliminate the threat that is Red Hill.  In fact, I could not find in the bill anything specifying shutdown protocols or even reference to monies spent to execute a decommission.  But it does provide a Department of Defense escape clause – a call for a new report detailing all options under consideration by the Department of Defense both to mitigate issues with fuel storage at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, as well as future plans for the site and Department of Defense fuel storage requirements.

Our congressional delegations have been unable to pass a law to get this shutdown done; Hawaii has been set up for disappointment by embracing this cloudy promise for "some time" in the future.  Our Delegation has implied that this is a done deal.  Far from it, there is no money for Decommissioning.

McDermott said that at this glacial pace, the tanks will be emptied in 3 to 10 years, best-case scenario, if at all.  That is why no estimated completion date was given?  Because the people of Hawaii would be outraged if they knew how slow this process is going to be, and clearly there is no sense of urgency by the Department of Defense.  3 years at 5.8K gallons per year that drip according to the Navy's own consultant, is 17.4K more gallons into the ground, or 58K over ten years.  The effort is too slow and lacks the urgency needed to remove the threat to our water.


HNN: State Sen. Jarrett Keohokalole also says the timeline remains unclear.


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