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Thirty Meter Telescope foes file lawsuit challenging developer for failing to meet bond requirement

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An artist’s rendering of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea.

Foes of the Thirty Meter Telescope filed a lawsuit Monday saying the state failed to make the developer of the $1.4 billion project post a security bond as required by the state’s 1977 plan for Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea Hui leader Kealoha Pisciotta said the suit filed in Third Circuit Court on Hawaii island is the first of at least three planned legal challenges aimed at stopping the TMT from being built on Hawaii’s tallest mountain.

Filed by Big Island attorney Gary Zamber, the suit claims that the Mauna Kea Plan of 1977 requires that every project have a posted security bond in the amount of the full cost of the project.

“The rules clearly state that a bond is required,” Pisciotta said this afternoon.

The claim names as defendants Gov. David Ige, state Attorney General Clare Connors, state Land Board chairperson Suzanne Case and other members of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, plus Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, University of Hawaii President David Lassner and the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory.

The governor’s office declined to comment about the lawsuit.

“By failing to post the bond they have laid all financial liability on the People of Hawai‘i, in the event (that)TMT doesn’t get full funding and this is especially important because they don’t have full funding now,” Pisciotta said in an email.

Pisciotta said a bond helps to ensure that the developer would be able to return the land back to its original state — a requirement of the TMT’s conservation district use permit — even if the project went bankrupt in the middle of construction.

“That is the purpose of requiring a bond in the first place —so the people don’t get stuck with the bill,” she said.

The plaintiffs include Pisciotta and other Native Hawaiian religious and cultural practitioners who here petitioners in the recent TMT contested case and court case.

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