HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group's effort to block construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea is headed to the highest court in the state.
The Hawaii Supreme Court on Friday granted the Mauna Kea Hui's application to transfer their case from the Intermediate Court of Appeals.
The Hui, made up of individuals and groups on Hawaii island, applauded the decision.
"Obviously the court feels that this is a case of fundamental public importance, and we're very encouraged by their ruling today," said Mauna Kea Hui attorney Richard Wurdeman.
The Hui will try to convince the justices that the state Board of Land and Natural Resources was wrong to grant a conservation district use permit to the University of Hawaii-Hilo for construction of the TMT.
"In this case, a huge, 18-story, eight-acre monstrosity on top of Mauna Kea is certainly, we would submit, not be consistent with conservation district use," said Wurdeman.
Hawaii's supreme court has a history of upholding the state's environmental laws, including shoreline protections and water rights. It also hasn't shied away from controversy.
"For example, in the case of the Superferry, they tried to shortcut the law, and the court said no, you have to the follow the law," said Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake, who worked on the case in 2009. That's when the court halted the service because of inadequate environmental studies.
Moriwake isn't involved in the TMT case and believes it could go either way. But he is sure that the high-profile protests against the telescope won't be a factor. The court will only focus on the law.
"It doesn't matter if you have a lot of money, if you're powerful, if you're popular," said Moriwake. "The court plays a really critical and special role in our government to make sure the law's complied with."
"The Hawaii Supreme Court is above the fray and all the political chatter, and we're very confident that they'll make a just determination in this case," said Wurdeman.
Oral arguments still have to be scheduled, and it's unknown how soon the court will issue a ruling.