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Proponents and Petitioners Continue TMT Discussion

June 16, 2017, 11:49 AM HST
* Updated June 16, 12:59 PM
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tmt sunset

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

After 44 days of the contested case hearing for the state Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) Conservation District Use Application (CDUA) on the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project wrapped up in March, some of the parties involved surfaced again last night, Thursday, June 15, on Na Leo TV during its June edition of “Hawaii Island Conversations.”

The panel included petitioners of the Maunakea project—Harry Fergerstrom, E. Kalani Flores and Kealoha Pisciotta—and proponents Paul Coleman, Richard Ha and Douglas Ing.

The contested case hearing provided relevant information to Hearing Officer Riki Mae Amano in order for her to evaluate and recommend to the BLNR whether or not the project should be constructed.

The two-hour discussion allowed panel members to speak of their involvement and welcomed questions from the public via Twitter and email.

One question raised was from a mother who asked how the petitioners would feel if Hawaiʻi were to lose TMT’s school program funding if the project is stopped. Her daughter received an internship from the company.

Flores, of the Flores-Case ʻOhana, responded by saying that he feels like the funds offered by the TMT project are a bribe. He then asked if education is so important, why don’t the other facilities on the mountain who are also partnering countries on the TMT project come together and contribute those monies? He said some have been paying $1 or less a year for their lease.

Ha, a long-time farmer on the island of Hawaiʻi and board member for Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities (PUEO), disagreed, saying the monies and opportunities given are because there was an agreement that keiki education was important.

Another member of the public asked if the supporters of the project believed Mauna Kea was sacred.

Coleman, a Native Hawaiian astrophysicist at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, said yes, he believes the mountain is sacred, but not sacred enough to not build the TMT—especially if it’s for the betterment of the overall population.

“What about the Hawaiians who support the telescope?” another public viewer asked the panel.

Pisciotta, of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, explained that it’s not about who supports the project but about state law. Has the project given due process? Does it meet the eight criteria requirements?

Pisciotta also mentioned that there were over 66,000 signatures to stop the construction of the telescope and arrests.

Flores added that he’s never seen 10,000 people marching down Waikiki in support of the project.

The petitioners position on the eight criteria, which are located in the Hawaii Administrative Rules 13-5-30, has always been that the project doesn’t meet them. These eight criteria are something the state Department of Land and Natural Resources must evaluate before allowing construction on a conservation district such as Mauna Kea.

Ing disagreed with the petitioners, saying the project does meet those eight criteria and that his party explained how in the 80-page brief they submitted. He also pointed out that within the conservation district there are subzones. The resource subzone (where the project is to be built) allows them to do much more than the other subzones.

Ha said that without the TMT project, jobs would be loss.

Flores immediately pulled out a sheet, saying he had the numbers for a survey that the Hawaiʻi County conducted on jobs in astronomy here on Hawaiʻi Island, showing that 80% of the workers are not from the island and as far as in the state, 70% are not from Hawaiʻi. He added that TMT is not for local jobs and will only provide temporary construction jobs (none specialized), which actually will cause the most damage to the ʻāina.

“Can we find a solution?” asked Ha.

Pisciotta said yes, it can be a win-win situation, but the solution needs to be pono (proper and moral).

Ing added that he thinks they owe it to themselves to sit down and talk about how to proceed after the contested case proceedings are finished.

As the discussion ended, all panel members agreed that the discussion was productive and were happy they had the opportunity to meet and discuss the project.

On June 13, parties submitted their responses to each other’s Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law and decision orders. Upon review, Amano will make her recommendation to the BLNR.

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