UH: Bill up for vote could 'spell the end' of Thirty-Meter Telescope

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Supporters — and opponents — of the Thirty-Meter Telescope were surprised to learn about last-minute legislation that would stop all construction at Mauna Kea if the University of Hawaii doesn't meet certain requirements.

The full Senate is poised to vote on House Bill 1585 on Tuesday.

The University of Hawaii warns TMT has already faced lengthy delays and the requirements could delay the project to its death.

"It could spell the end of the project. I mean that's a worse-case scenario, but that's a scenario that's more in play now because of what's happened," said Dan Meisenzahl, UH spokesman.

The bill would require UH to secure a new master lease and complete an environmental impact statement and management actions. It would also call on the state auditor to complete financial, performance and organizational audits.

State Sen. Kaialii Kahele said he supports TMT, but wants the university's management at Mauna Kea fixed first.

"Until the University of Hawaii and Office of Mauna Kea Management can do those things, then we are going to place a complete construction moratorium," said Kahele.

TMT opponents, meanwhile, say they do not support bill and want lawmakers to wait for the two state Supreme Court rulings on TMT's permit and sublease.

"The Supreme Court has to rule on these questions and they can't do that if they are undermining us. So this is very frustrating for us," said Kealoha Pisciotta, of Mauna Kea Anaina Hou.

TMT officials said in a statement, "We are reviewing the current legislation and monitoring its progress through the legislature."

The TMT board will meet sometime this month to discuss if they'll keep the project in Hawaii or move it to an alternative site in Canary Islands. It's not known if the TMT board will make a final decision at the meeting.

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