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Judge Rejects Appeal of Thirty Meter Telescope Permit

April 3, 2014, 6:13 PM HST (Updated April 4, 2014, 9:35 AM)
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A Circuit Court judge has rejected an attempt by opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope to overturn a construction permit issued by the state.

A coalition of native Hawaiians and environmentalists filed the appeal in May 2013 challenging a conservation district use permit granted in 2011.

It said the state Board of Land and Natural Resources should not have granted the permit before completion of a contested case hearing on the process.

During arguments before Judge Greg Nakamura in February, the group’s attorney said that the case was similar to one on Maui. In that case, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled a permit for a telescope project on Haleakela was invalid because it was issued two months before the board granted opponents a contested case hearing.

In his ruling Wednesday, Nakamura agreed with arguments by lawyers for the state and University of Hawaii who said that the Thirty Meter Telescope matter was different, in that the permit for the project was conditional, and dependent on the outcome of the hearing granted at the same time.

“In this case, the BLNR entered a final decision and order after a contested case hearing,” Nakamura’s ruling said.

Nakamura also ruled that astronomy facilities are an appropriate use of the conservation district subzone where the Mauna Kea Science Reserve leased by the University of Hawaii is located.

He also ruled that Native Hawaiian cultural practices on the dormant volcano did not preclude the issuance of the permit, and rejected the opponents’ argument that the management plan for the TMT was insufficient.

Opponents of the telescope project have said they plan to appeal Nakamura’s ruling.

The case is Civ. 134-1-349 – Mauna Kea Anaina Hou vs. Board of Land and Natural Resources, et al.

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