March 10, 2022

Hirono Questions U.S. Commanders on Future Fuel Storage Needs Following the Announced Closure of Red Hill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) questioned Admiral John Aquilino, Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and General Paul LaCamera, Commander of the United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command/U.S. Forces Korea on addressing the INDOPACOM fueling needs following the announced closure of Red Hill, which Senator Hirono strongly supports. Additionally, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), opened the hearing by applauding the Department of Defense for making the decision to close Red Hill and requesting more information on what steps are being taken to ensure the safety and health of the military families and communities who have been impacted by the water contamination crisis.  

Senator Hirono asked Admiral Aquilino about his major concerns and priorities with respect to the future fuel storage requirements for the Indo-Pacific region and emphasized the importance of supporting Compacts of Free Association (COFA) nations, such as the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau. Senator Hirono asked both Admiral Aquilino and General LaCamera about their assessments regarding the looming threats of missile testing from North Korea.

A link to download video of the exchange is available here.

Senator Hirono steps on Red Hill:

  • Yesterday, Senator Hirono released a statement applauding the $686 million in funding for the Red Hill water contamination crisis that was included in the fiscal year 2022 omnibus spending bill.
  • Earlier this week, Senator Hirono expressed her strong support regarding the Department of Defense’s decision to defuel and permanently shut down the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.
  • On March 3, Senator Hirono sent a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee and Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment. In her letter, she urged them to support her efforts in ensuring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the resources it needs to continue addressing the water contamination caused by the fuel leak.
  • On February 22, Senator Hirono toured the Red Hill facility and met business owners at the NEX Food Court who have been impacted by the Navy’s contaminated water system.
  • On February 17, Senator Hirono applauded Senate passage of the continuing resolution-legislation to keep the government funded—which included $350 million to address the Red Hill crisis. Senator Hirono will continue to fight for additional funding to defuel safely and for the DoD to develop and implement a long-term plan to meet the strategic fueling needs of the Indo Pacific region in the upcoming fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.
  • On February 11, Senator Hirono released a statement where she reiterated that the State of Hawaii has the authority to shut down Red Hill through its permitting process—and that she will fully support the State’s decision.
  • As the Department of Defense considers options for the long-term strategic fuel reserve needs of the Indo Pacific region, Senator Hirono sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense urging the Department to focus on options that do not rely on Red Hill, given the likelihood that the facility will be shutdown. Senator Hirono requested the briefing and the completed analysis by March 30 to ensure the NDAA includes necessary provisions to protect Hawaii’s water and our national security.
  • During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Senator Hirono highlighted the Red Hill water contamination crisis as she questioned Robert Storch, nominee to be Inspector General of the DoD, and Christopher Lowman, nominee to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment. She inquired about the continuation of the Inspector General (IG) investigation into operations at Red Hill and potential strategies to address any long-term impacts, should the State elect to shut down the Red Hill facility. A link to download video of the exchange is available here.
  • In December, the DoD IG announced their intent to open an investigation into the Navy’s ability to safely operate Red Hill at the request of Senator Hirono and the Hawaii Congressional delegation.  Senator Hirono asked Mr. Storch, if confirmed, whether he would commit to continuing the current investigation into Red Hill. The Senator emphasized the importance of completing the investigation, regardless of whether the facility is allowed to continue its operations.