This week brought good news to the supporters and backers of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) planned to be built on Mauna Kea mountain on the Big Island of Hawaii. The Hawaii State Supreme Court ruled in TMT’s favor to give the project the green light to start construction after many years of protest and debate.
I am hopeful that the TMT will be built and that the astronomy industry can move forward in a future filled with even more discovery as we quest to learn about the heavens around us.
From TMT here is their press release regarding the recent ruling:
The Hawaii Supreme Court, by majority decision, today issued its opinion affirming the Board of Land & Natural Resource’s decision to issue a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) for construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Maunakea.
Henry Yang, Chair, TMT International Observatory Board of Governors, issued the following statement in response to the news:
“On behalf of the TMT International Observatory, we are grateful for the Hawaii State Supreme Court’s ruling that will allow TMT to be built on Maunakea. We thank all of the community members who contributed their thoughtful views during this entire process. We remain committed to being good stewards on the mountain and inclusive of the Hawaiian community. We honor the culture of the islands and its people and do our part to contribute to its future through our ongoing support of education and Hawaii Islands’ young people. We are excited to move forward in Hawaii and will continue to respect and follow state and county regulations, as we determine our next steps. We are deeply grateful to our many friends and supporters for their tremendous support over the years.”
Work on the telescope on Maunakea was halted in 2015 when the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the Conservation District Use Permit on procedural grounds. That permit had been issued by the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) to the University of Hawaii Hilo to build TMT on Maunakea. The Supreme Court returned the case to the Hawaii Circuit Court and instructed that a new contested case hearing be conducted. The contested case got underway in October 2016.
Following 44 days of testimony by 71 witnesses over five months, the hearing concluded in early March 2017, and hearings officer Riki May Amano in July 2017 recommended that a state Conservation District Use Permit be re-issued to allow construction of the project on Maunakea. On Thursday, September 28, the State Land Board announced its decision to approve the Conservation District Use Permit to build TMT on Maunakea. Opponents challenged the new permit before the Hawaii State Supreme Court. Today’s ruling affirms BLNR’s decision to issue the CDUP.
In the majority opinion the Court noted: “In this opinion, we address whether the BLNR properly applied the law in analyzing whether a permit should be issued for the TMT. Upon careful consideration of the written submissions, the applicable law, and the oral arguments, and for the reasons explained below, we now affirm the BLNR’s decision authorizing issuance of a Conservation District Use Permit (“CDUP”) for the Thirty Meter Telescope (“TMT”).”