Supreme court hears TMT arguments

Supreme court hears TMT arguments

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Attorney Richard Wurdeman told the Hawaii Supreme Court the situation at the summit of Mauna Kea is out of hand, and the Thirty Meter Telescope would further degrade the sacred mountain.

"Mauna Kea has really become an absolute mess." he said.  "This is not an industrial district. This is a conservation district where preserving natural resources is significant, and that's what the legislature has found."

On appeal is the Circuit Court's decision upholding the granting of a conservation district use permit by the state Land Board to UH Hilo for the TMT project.  The university's attorney, Jay Handlin, says the board's decision followed a lengthy vetting process.

"The ultimate final decision of the board granting the conservation district use permit represents the culmination of a process of years of community outreach, of dialogue, of listening, revising, reducing, modifying," he said.

The justices questioned the attorneys on what impact the large telescope could have on cultural resources, and why the conservation district use permit was granted before a contested case hearing.

"A contested case hearing means you have an opportunity as the participant requesting a hearing for testimony that's under oath. You forfeit that opportunity if the decision is made ahead of time," associate justice Michael Wilson said.

"We firmly believe that the state really did railroad this project through without due process being followed," Wurdeman said.

But lawyers for DLNR and UH Hilo say issuing a permit prior to a contested case hearing was standard operating procedure.

"The university certainly believes that it was properly done, but again, the court will review it and they will tell us what they think," Handlin said.

More than 200 people were in the courtroom. The justices now take the case under advisement.

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