Native Hawaiian groups seeking to block construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) atop the state's Mauna Kea volcano have won a major court victory. Hawaii’s Supreme Court today ruled that a state planning board acted improperly in 2011 in granting a permit for TMT construction before it completed a hearing on objections to the permit.
“Quite simply, the [state Board of Land and Natural Resources] put the cart before before the horse when it issued the permit before the request for a contested case hearing was resolved and the hearing was held,” Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald wrote in a 2 December opinion. “Accordingly, the permit cannot stand.”
In addition to vacating a lower court’s ruling in 2014 that upheld the permit, the court ordered the state board to conduct the required hearing. A new permit would be required for TMT construction to proceed.
Protests and lawsuits have extensively delayed efforts to begin construction of the TMT, which is expected to cost more than $1 billion and become one of the most powerful land-based telescopes in the world. Native Hawaiian groups say the project represents an inappropriate use of sacred land, and that state agencies have improperly ignored their views. Protesters began blocking a road to the telescope site this past April, halting construction, and more recent clashes have prevented resumption of construction.
With reporting by Ilima Loomis in Hawaii.