In a strongly worded letter to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro on Wednesday, Hawaii lawmakers admonished the military for fighting a state order to drain the Red Hill fuel facility.

The Hawaii Department of Health ordered the military to empty its World War II-era facility after fuel leaked into the Red Hill well, the drinking water source for 93,000 Pearl Harbor area residents. Families were sickened, and thousands remain displaced from their homes. Despite that, the U.S. Department of Justice filed legal appeals in state and federal court to fight the order to “defuel.”

Senate President Ron Kouchi during last day of session.
Senate President Ron Kouchi presides over the Senate’s last session before adjournment Thursday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

That was after Navy officials had already told members of Congress they would comply with the order.

Twenty-four Hawaii senators said they have “grave concerns” about the federal government’s resistance to the state order and said it threatens to harm the Navy’s relationship with the people of Hawaii.

“These legal games need to stop,” the legislators wrote. “These tactics convey a lack of respect for our community and a disinterest in favorable military-community relations in Hawaii. At every turn since the start of this crisis, the Navy has manipulated the legal system to delay the obvious: that the tanks need to be emptied.”

The government’s appeal damages the credibility of the Navy and the entire Department of Defense, they wrote. The lawmakers asked the federal government to rescind its legal challenge and take immediate steps to “repair your damaged military assets and your damaged relationship with the state of Hawaii.”

“We are not expendable and will not sacrifice our future for the continued complacence of the military,” they wrote.

The letter was signed by Senate President Ron Kouchi, Senate Vice President Michelle  Kidani, Senate Majority Leader Dru Mamo Kanuha, Senate Minority Leader Kurt Fevella as well as Sens. Laura Acasio, Rosalyn Baker, Stanley Chang, Lynn DeCoite, Donovan Dela Cruz, Mike Gabbard, Lorraine Inouye, Gilbert Keith-Agaran, Jarrett Keohokalole, Donna Mercado Kim, Chris Lee, Bennette Misalucha, Sharon Moriwaki, Clarence Nishihara, Karl Rhoads, Gil Riviere, Joy San Buenaventura, Maile S.L. Shimabukuro, Brian Taniguchi and Glenn Wakai.

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