U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz secured $100 million in new federal funding to pay for the defueling of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in compliance with a Hawaii health department order, his office said on Monday.

Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, worked with Republicans and Democrats to include the provision in a federal spending bill, according to his office. The legislation needs to pass to avoid a government shutdown.

Senator Brian Schatz,
Senator Brian Schatz, Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

“This bill funds defueling, and it establishes Congress’s position on Red Hill: the DoD must defuel and follow the state’s order immediately,” Schatz said in a statement. “We still have more work to do, but we are making good progress to protect our water and get this right.”

Schatz’s office said the new funds represent the first round of possible funding to drain the Red Hill facility at the center of a water contamination crisis.

“Schatz is continuing to work with senior leaders in the Biden Administration and the Senate Appropriations Committee to secure additional funding in the president’s annual budget request and a much larger appropriations package expected to be taken up by Congress next month,” his office said.

Once the military has made repairs and drained the fuel, the state’s order leaves open the possibility that the military could refuel the facility. But Schatz is not supportive of that, according to his office. He wants the facility to be shut down permanently.

The state order required the military to hire a third-party contractor to assess Red Hill’s operations and system integrity. According to the spending bill, the Secretary of Defense must brief the Senate and House appropriations committees on the findings of that assessment before the military may spend the $100 million. The secretary must also brief lawmakers on the defense department’s own analysis of its fuel reserve distribution for “operations in the Pacific theater,” the bill states.

Also on Monday, Rep. Ed Case announced the U.S. House of Representatives included funds to address Oahu’s drinking water contamination in its proposed Fiscal Year 2022 federal funding continuing resolution.

That includes the $100 million secured by the Senate, $250 million to address drinking water contamination resulting from the Red Hill fuel leak and $53 million in existing general operational funding now directed specifically to Red Hill, Case’s office said in a news release.

The House’s spending measure was introduced on Monday and is expected to go for a vote on Tuesday, according to Case’s office.

“It is highly unusual to include new funding in such a continuing resolution and is reserved for truly urgent matters that cannot await the normal appropriations process,” Case, a member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

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