With TMT project stalled, heavy equipment removed from Mauna Kea - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

With TMT project stalled, heavy equipment removed from Mauna Kea

File image of construction site File image of construction site
MAUNA KEA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Two weeks after the state Supreme Court revoked the Thirty Meter Telescope project's permit, all construction equipment and vehicles were removed from Mauna Kea on Wednesday.

Henry Yang, chairman of the TMT International Observatory Board of Governors, released the following statement:

"We respect the Hawaii Supreme Court decision and, as good neighbors and stewards of the mountain, TMT has begun relocating construction vehicles and equipment from Mauna Kea. Some maintenance work was needed before transporting the vehicles down the mountain, given that they have been idle since April. We thank everyone as we assess our next steps forward."

Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court halted the $1.4 billion project by invalidating its construction permit -- sending it back to the drawing board, or in this case, the permit decision-making process.

The justices ruled that the Board of Land and Natural Resources erred when it issued the TMT conservation district use permit in 2011, allowing the telescope's construction before a contested case hearing was resolved.

It could potentially take months, even years for the TMT project to acquire a new permit and resume its construction efforts.

Protesters of the TMT project were pleased with announcement.

A small group of opponents, who call themselves protectors of the mountain as a sacred Native Hawaiian place, were on the summit Wednesday morning to make sure the construction equipment was removed without damaging the 'ahu or altars that were built on the project's site.

"For now we're just really happy and really thankful that all the machines are getting off the Mauna. We just got to wait to see what TMT does. It is a big victory for us regardless, but we know it's not the end -- until TMT says it's the end," said Ku'uipo Freitas, who described the removal as pono (righteous).

Freitas was on the mountain when the construction equipment was first delivered in March.

"It honestly felt amazing to see everything come off the Mauna. All the months that we put in our time and energy. It took 266 days. It paid off."

TMT protesters have been calling for the machines to be removed from Mauna Kea ever since the state Supreme Court ruled the telescope's permits were invalid on December 2.

In response to the demand, the state attorney general's office said the equipment could remain in place because it fell within the terms of the project's sublease with the University of Hawaii.

However, telescope officials decided to pull the machines on their own.

It's unclear whether TMT officials will pursue a new permit for the project.

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