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Haleakala solar telescope approvals upheld by courts

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    This Dec. 3, 2015 photo shows the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, formely known as the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope on Haleakala on Maui.

Two opinions handed down by the Hawaii Supreme Court today uphold government approvals for a new solar telescope atop Haleakala.

The court ruled that the state Board of Land and Natural Resources followed proper procedure in granting the University of Hawaii a permit to construct an Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, now known as the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, on Maui. The court also ruled that the management plan UH submitted to the BLNR with its permit application didn’t need an environmental impact statement.

The group Kilakila O Haleakala had challenged BLNR’s approval of the management plan and permit.

Last year, eight people were arrested when protesters tried to stop a construction convoy heading to the solar telescope site. Kahele Dukelow, one of the protest leaders, said opponents are disappointed and considering what their next steps will be. “We only have one alternative now,” she said. “We have to continue to protest in other ways.”

They hoped the decision would be similar to the court’s ruling last year that invalidated a permit to build the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island’s Mauna Kea. That project has been the focus of more intense protests. Opposition to both telescopes cite concerns that the projects will desecrate sacred land.

State Attorney General Doug Chin said his office will look into whether the rulings have any impact on future matters before the state land board, including the Thirty Meter Telescope.

Attorneys representing the group that challenged the solar telescope’s permit, Kilakila O Haleakala, didn’t immediately comment. Officials with the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope also didn’t immediately comment.

“We are still reviewing the full decisions, but we look forward to ‘first light’ when the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope will open a new era of discovery, here in Hawaii, about the sun and its daily impacts on all life on Earth,” university President David Lassner said in a statement.

External construction of the Maui telescope is complete, with only internal work remaining, according to the university. The $340-million project is scheduled to be operational in 2019. Construction of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope remains stalled pending a new contested case hearing scheduled to begin later this month.


The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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