In a victory for the Thirty Meter Telescope, the state Supreme Court today unanimously ruled against a TMT opponent who had sought an additional contested case hearing over the project’s sublease.
The high court ruled that E. Kalani Flores was not entitled to the hearing because it was not required “by statute, administrative rule or due process.”
Additionally, the court said Flores, as a petitioner in the recent TMT construction permit contested case, was already afforded the right to defend his interest in Native Hawaiian cultural practices on Mauna Kea.
For the TMT, today’s 5-0 decision leaves only the question of whether the $1.4 billion project will be issued a conditional use permit allowing it to proceed with construction atop Hawaii’s tallest mountain.
That issue is before the court following an appeal of a state Board of Land and Natural Resources’ approval of that permit following a 44-day contested case hearing. Flores was among the petitioners in that case.
Flores, a Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner from Hawaii island, sued the state in 2014, claiming he was denied the right to a hearing over the sublease the University of Hawaii intended to enter with TMT International Observatory LLC for the planned telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea.
The Environmental Court of the Third Circuit agreed, ruling that BLNR’s denial infringed upon his constitutional right to due process. The state appealed to the high court.
Henry Yang, chairman of the TMT International Observatory board of governors, said he was pleased by today’s decision.
“We thank all of the community members who contributed their thoughtful views during this entire process. We will assess our next steps, as we await resolution of the final appeal before the court related to the conservation district use permit. While it has been a long journey to get here, we remain committed to Hawaii and thank everyone for their support over the last 10-plus years,” Yang said in a statement.