TMT Hearing: DLNR Administrator Subpoenaed to Testify

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tmt sunset

An artist’s rendering of the Thirty Meter Telescope at sunset. TMT photo.

The request by petitioner E. Kalani Flores, of the Flores-Case Ohana, for a subpoena to call Sam Lemmo, the administrator of the Department of Land and Natural Resources Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands,  to testify in the state Board of Land and Natural Resources Conservation District Use Application (CDUA) Contested Case Hearing on the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) was granted by Hearing Officer Riki May Amano Jan. 30, 2017.

Arguing for the applicant, University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Attorney Tim Lui Kwan said staff reports do not require explaining and that calling the administrator to testify sets an “extremely dangerous precedent.”

Judge Amano explained she understood this was an important issue and admitted it is an “unusual type of subpoena” but that the line of questioning is relevant to the case. She said if the original permitting process had included the contested case hearing, the opportunity to ask such questions would have been given then.


Attorney Kwan argued that it was unprecedented to do so in the contested case hearing portion and that it “always occurs in the public hearing.”

Judge Amano explained that for someone to testify, the only requirements for the subpoenas is relevance and materiality. She explained she doesn’t know the process that goes into the creation of the staff report and the process taken to then approve the Conservation District Use Permit.

Petitioner Flores told Judge Amano the sole purpose to call Lemmo is to clarify the facts and the validity of the content in the CDUA and the process in approving the Conservation District Use Permit.


Amano explained there would be limitations to the questioning allowed. She said she would outline the limitations in a memorandum and issue them Tuesday, Jan. 31.

Download Flores’ memorandum of subpoena request here.

Following the ruling, the hearing continued with testimony and cross-examination of petitioner E. Kalani Flores in the Willie K. Crown Room at the Grand Naniloa Hotel Hilo.


A contested case hearing was required with respect to the 2011 decision by the BLNR to issue a permit to build the $1.4 billion next-generation telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea.

The Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruled the permit invalid, remanding it back to the board for a contested case hearing to review the CDUA.

Check back for this week’s coverage of the BLNR contested case hearing on the proposed TMT project.

TMT Hearing: Does the Project Meet the Eight Criteria?


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