State's highest court upholds sublease for Thirty Meter Telescope

State's highest court upholds sublease for Thirty Meter Telescope
Rendering of Thirty-Meter Telescope (Image: TMT)

MAUNA KEA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Thirty Meter Telescope got a state Supreme Court win Wednesday.

The state's highest court ruled to uphold the state Board of Land and Natural Resources' sublease between the University of Hawaii and TMT. It also said the telescope's opponents aren't entitled to another contested case hearing on the issue.

The larger case before the Supreme Court — on the telescope's state permit — hasn't yet been decided.

In a statement Wednesday, TMT officials said it was pleased with the court's ruling on the sublease.

"We thank all of the community members who contributed their thoughtful views during this entire process," the statement said.

"We will assess our next steps, as we await resolution of the final appeal before the court related to the Conservation District Use Permit. While it has been a long journey to get here, we remain committed to Hawaii and thank everyone for their support over the last 10-plus years."

The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday stems from a 2014 decision by the state Land Board to approve the University of Hawaii's sublease of six acres atop Mauna Kea for TMT. Native Hawaiian cultural practitioner E. Kalani Flores appealed the Land Board's decision and requested a contested case hearing.

The Board denied Flores' request, but in December 2016, Hawaii Circuit Court Judge Greg Nakamura ordered a new contested case hearing, saying the board's decision violated Flores' constitutional rights.

The state then appealed the decision and requested the case be transferred from the lower court to the state Supreme Court.

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