Hawaii Supreme Court issues ruling allowing TMT to be built on Mauna Kea

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After a lengthy court battle, the Hawaii Supreme Court supported Tuesday the state Board of Land and Natural Resources’ decision to issue a Conservation District Use Permit for construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.

Appeals filed in October and November of 2017 challenged a decision by the BLNR to issue the permit for TMT.

Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners believe Mauna Kea is sacred and that it is being desecrated, while the state argued telescope use is an allowed and appropriate use of the summit area, and that steps are being taken to reduce the impact of TMT.

Gov. David Ige praised the decision to allow construction of the controversial project.

“The high court reviewed thousands of pages of documents and testimony. Ultimately, the court’s decision was fair and will allow Hawaii to lead the world in astronomy,” said Ige.

In a statement Henry Yang, chair of the TMT International Observatory Board of Governors, said:

“TMT is poised to make tremendous contributions to Mauna Kea astronomy and all of Hawaii. We are elated that today’s ruling will allow the project to move ahead, enabling numerous local opportunities and the pursuit of scientific discovery worldwide. We look forward to working collaboratively with TMT as they help create widespread economic benefits for Hawaii Island and the state. TMT will join the Mauna Kea Observatories in their shared commitment to serve as the preeminent example of cutting-edge innovation on an international scale, creating educational opportunities for Hawaii’s youth, and providing clean, high-tech job opportunities for our kamaaina.”

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources said it is committed to moving forward with the project. Once construction plans are submitted, they will carefully be reviewed.

“For adherence of the Mauna Kea comprehensive management requirements such as control of invasive species in attention to cultural protocols and training,” said Suzanne Case, DLNR chair.

Case explained that process could take up to two years.

Others opposed to the project said they are crushed by the news, but will not stop doing what they believe is right.

“We are not going to stop loving the aina or caring for the aina. We will continue. How we choose to do that will be collectively decided after we have some time to carefully review what the court has said,” said Kealoha Pisciotta, president of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou.

Kaleikoa Kaeo, an assistant professor at UH Maui College who was arrested in 2015 for protesting on Mauna Kea, said that they will not lay back. 

“We have no choice really but to struggle and to fight,” said Kaeo. 

Attorney General Russell Suzuki said legal challenges could continue. Those opposed can file a petition to the United States Supreme Court.

TMT is poised to make tremendous contributions to Maunakea astronomy and all of Hawaii. We are elated that today’s ruling will allow the project to move ahead, enabling numerous local opportunities and the pursuit of scientific discovery worldwide. We look forward to working collaboratively with TMT as they help create widespread economic benefits for Hawaii Island and the state. TMT will join the Maunakea Observatories in their shared commitment to serve as the preeminent example of cutting-edge innovation on an international scale, creating educational opportunities for Hawaii’s youth, and providing clean, high-tech job opportunities for our kamaaina.

Doug Simons
Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope

Now that the State Supreme Court has ruled, it is incumbent upon government agencies, and particularly the University of Hawaii, to reconcile culture and astronomy. In this modern day, we can have both. The entire world will benefit from our astronomy program.

Rep. Scott K. Saiki 
(D) House Speaker

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