Court rules in TMT’s favor

The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Thirty Meter Telescope today in a case involving its construction permit.

The 4-1 ruling affirms the state Board of Land and Natural Resources’ decision to grant the conservation district use permit, which opponents of the $1.4 billion project had appealed following a lengthy contested case hearing.

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The court previously rescinded the permit in December 2015 after finding the Land Board violated due process rights of project opponents by voting before the first contested case was held. That prompted a do-over of the quasi-judicial hearing.

The ruling is the last legal hurdle facing the project after the high court upheld the project’s sublease with the University of Hawaii earlier this year.

TMT International Observatory had selected the Canary Islands as a backup site to Hawaii.

In a statement, Henry Yang, chair of TIO’s Board of Governors, said the board is “excited to move forward in Hawaii.” The statement didn’t say when construction could resume.

“We remain committed to being good stewards of the mountain and inclusive of the Hawaiian community,” Yang said. “We will honor the culture of the islands and its people and do our part to contribute to this future through our ongoing support of education and Hawaii Islands’ young people.”

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The 180-foot-tall telescope will keep Hawaii at the forefront of astronomy and is part of a next-generation class of observatories. Scientists say it will help unlock mysteries of the universe and aid in the search for life on other worlds.

But it has attracted strong opposition from Native Hawaiians and environmentalists who say Maunakea is already overbuilt or that it will interfere with cultural and religious practices.

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