A top U.S. military official said Monday the Defense Department will appeal Hawaii’s order that it drain fuel from a massive tank farm that leaked petroleum into the Navy’s water system and contaminated Pearl Harbor’s tap water.
Even so, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said in a statement the military continues to take actions “consistent with” Hawaii’s order to drain the tanks at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.
Hicks said the military would meet Hawaii’s Wednesday deadline to submit a work plan and implementation schedule for an assessment by an independent third party. Hawaii’s order says the Navy must drain the tanks, and it won’t be able to use them again until it shows that it can do so safely.
Hicks’ statement said the department plans to file appeals in both state and federal court by Wednesday. She didn’t specify the precise reasons for the move, but said: “This will afford us time to make evidence-based and transparent decisions.”
Hawaii’s deputy director of environmental health, Kathleen Ho, said she was disappointed by the decision and would fight in court to force the Navy to make Red Hill safe.
“The Navy committed to Congress and in multiple public forums that it would comply with the emergency order,” Ho said in a statement. “Today’s announcement that they intend to appeal the emergency order is yet another breach of trust between the Navy and the people of Hawaii.”
Ho said the state’s order would remain in effect during the appeals process.
U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said the military “made a grave and unforced error that undermines public trust.”
“Fortunately, we have civilian oversight of the military, and this inexplicable and maddening resistance to the defuel order will not succeed. They will lose in court, and they will lose in Congress,” Schatz said in a statement.
Separately, Hicks said the military was working to analyze the distribution of its fuel reserves in the Pacific. She said this would be finished within 60 days to allow the defense secretary to decide what to do about Red Hill “moving forward.”