Gov. David Ige today rescinded the emergency proclamation for Mauna Kea, saying there are no immediate plans to move Thirty Meter Telescope construction equipment up the mountain due to approaching hurricanes Flossie and Erick.
“The intention would be to keep law enforcement there just in order to keep people safe,” Ige said during a news conference at his Capitol office in Honolulu. “But obviously, we are monitoring the approach of the storm and will be taking appropriate action.”
Ige also announced that his administration is extending the deadline for TMT construction to start for two years, until Sept. 26, 2021.
Suzanne Case, head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said leaseholder University of Hawaii at Hilo requested the construction start deadline extension this morning on behalf of TMT International Observatory.
Case said she granted the extension because protesters have blocked attempts to move equipment to the construction site near the summit of Hawaii’s tallest mountain.
Kaho‘okahi Kanuha, one of the key leaders of the Mauna Kea protests, said the decisions to rescind the emergency proclamation and to extend the timeline of the TMT permit are victories for the opponents of the project. The protesters argued from the beginning that the emergency proclamation was unnecessary, he said.
“We feel that the governor rescinding that validates, in a sense, our position, what we’ve been saying, and it does not allow them at this point to dip into extra resources for funding for law enforcement, it doesn’t allow them to bypass environmental laws and processes in terms of creating new roads, which we have been hearing they may be looking into doing,” he said.
“It doesn’t solve the issue, it doesn’t end it, but it is a small victory for us, and we’ll take it,” Kanuha said. As for the extension of the deadline to start construction, “Exactly what they’re doing we don’t know, but we do know that we defeated their timeline. They had a timeline to get construction started by Sept. 26, and because of our efforts, because of our unity, because of our organization, and because of our growing numbers, we have defeated that timeline, and they are now forced to reassess that, they have to extend it two years, so again, we take that as a small victory.”
Ige said that while he is considering making an emergency proclamation because of the hurricanes, he has no plans to reinstate the TMT emergency proclamation after the storms unless requested by Hawaii County.
Meanwhile, the protesters on Mauna Kea say they are prepared to evacuate their headquarters if the hurricane threat becomes great, a key protest leader said today.
Kanuha said the protesters are monitoring the storms closely, and any threat to the lives and well-being of the activists would override any other consideration.
Kanuha acknowledged that if the protesters vacate the sites they control near the base of the Mauna Kea Access Road, that may provide an opening for the state to move construction equipment up to the summit. He said the protesters have considered that possibility but declined to elaborate.
But Ige, talking from the Capitol, said he doesn’t anticipate there being any construction activities in the next few days because of the threat of the hurricanes.
The protesters have been blocking the road for over two weeks in an effort to prevent the equipment from reaching the construction site of the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope.
The activists oppose the project because many Hawaiians consider Mauna Kea to be sacred.