comscore Opponents to TMT crew: Get stuff off Mauna Kea
Hawaii News

Opponents to TMT crew: Get stuff off Mauna Kea

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    The Hawaii Supreme Court on Wednesday invalidated a permit awarded for the construction of one of the world’s largest telescopes on a Big Island mountain many Native Hawaiians consider sacred. Kupono Mele-Ana-Kekua ofKaaawa blew a conch shell Aug. 31 near Mauna Kea’s summit. Mele-Ana-Kekua had been camping on the mountain in protest of the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope want construction equipment and vehicles removed from Mauna Kea now that the Hawaii Supreme Court has invalidated the project’s permit.

In a Wednesday ruling seen as a victory for opponents fighting the $1.4 billion project, the court said the state Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a permit that allowed construction on conservation land before a contested case hearing was held. The court sent the matter back for a new contested case hearing.

“They have no permit. It’s been vacated,” said Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the permit. “They absolutely, immediately have to remove all their stuff.”

But the state attorney general’s office said Thursday the equipment can remain because the project has a sublease with the University of Hawaii for a portion of the Big Island mountain. “As long as TMT does not engage in activities that constitute a land use in the conservation district, TMT would not require a permit or be subject to fines,” said a statement from attorney general spokesman Joshua Wisch.

Storing large equipment on the mountain is not consistent with conservation district use, said Richard Naiwieha Wurdeman, the attorney representing the permit challengers. He said he’s ready to take legal action to ensure the equipment is removed.

Project spokesman Scott Ishikawa said officials are still assessing what to do next, including issues related to the equipment on the mountain.

“The ball’s certainly in their court at this point, whether they want to start the process all over again,” Wurdeman said. “We’re ready to challenge them every step of the way.”

If telescope officials opt to proceed with a new contested case hearing, the entire process could take several years, Wurdeman said: “They have an insurmountable burden if they decide to go forward.”

Longtime telescope supporter and Big Island farmer Richard Ha said he hopes telescope officials don’t give up on a project he says will provide significant economic and educational opportunities.

“I know that they’ve done everything they possibly can to do the right thing,” he said. “I hope they hang in there.”

While some protesters were celebrating the ruling, others were in court for charges related to being arrested for blocking construction crews from accessing the telescope site.

Wurdeman called on the governor to urge that all charges be dismissed.

“There is no plan to ask the county prosecutor to dismiss those prosecutions,” said a statement from Gov. David Ige’s office. “These trials are currently ongoing and we’re not going to interfere with the judicial process.”

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  • No sympathy for the developers who thought big money and faits accompli would sway our State Supremes. Judges don’t like being challenged publicly, and they quite rightly took the developers to the woodshed.

    I personally have no dog in this particular fight, but have to admit it does my heart good to see greed and high-handedness get dirty lickin’s, and the requirements of due process upheld.

    As for the equipment, etc., the outcome depends on what kind of designation applies to the land where it’s sitting. If it’s not conservation, the equipment probably stays. Otherwise, my guess is the plaintiffs will prevail again.

    • Can you explain what greed is there? Seems to me this is typical sloppy work in doing what is suppose to be done to do things right. Always felt that it was odd that the permit was issued prior to the challenge being decided. But before these so called “protectors” cheer, they should consider the economic harm they are doing to this state. The legislature should keep this in mind when further requests for Hawaiians come up.

  • We don’t need a TMT. What we need is a worm hole for space travel. Even if we had one the farthest solar system 13 Billion light years way burnt out 10 Billion years ago.

  • My guess is eventually the TMT project will proceed. When (and if) it happens, those opposing this project should not obstruct it as they would have lost fair and square. But they will because laws only apply when it favors them.

  • Okay, the opposition won a delay of the project, at least until the state gets their act together and go about getting the permits the right way. Now they can come down from the mauna and go look for real jobs.

  • A Pyrrhic victory. The restless natives want things the way things were, ignoring they wouldn’t even have the 4-wheel drive vehicles that got them up the mountain to hold their tantrum.

  • I hope TMT succeeds, it should. But it’s shameful the way those involved proceeded with putting this thing together. The protest brought this to light
    as a side note and nothing wrong with that. Many times this is what happens. You open the closet door and other things fall out. These suspicions lead to
    perceptions of payoffs. Wasn’t OHA in the middle of this? What does OHA stand for? Go figure.

  • Such a shame that a handful of little pointy heads were able to convince the court ( more pointy heads ) how hurtful the telescope will be to that pile of dirt. Progress is halted again back to the stone age.

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