MAUNA KEA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii News Now has learned DLNR agents who were scheduled to be on Mauna Kea Wednesday morning to ensure Thirty Meter Telescope crews safe, unobstructed access to their site have been told to stand down as TMT workers are no longer expected in light of the state Supreme Court's ruling to temporarily suspend construction for the next two weeks.
Hawai'i's Supreme Court has ordered that there be no TMT construction on Mauna Kea until December 2, or until another court order. The announcement this afternoon was a big surprise -- even the governor had no idea it was coming. The justices issued a temporary halt to the $1.4 billion telescope project, while they continue to consider a legal challenge over the validity of the TMT's permits.
The court's ruling comes just one day before state authorities and TMT opponents were bracing for a potential clash at the summit. Those opponents argued it's wrong for construction to resume before the high court rules on the case and petitioned for an injunction late Monday. The justices appear to agree.
"We respect the Court decision and we will stand down between now and December 2," TMT spokesman Scott Ishikawa said in a statement. "The Supreme Court's decision will give all parties involved in the appeal sufficient time to respond to the motion."
The motion was filed by the Mauna Kea Hui, the same group behind the initial challenge to the telescope project that questioned whether the state followed due process when issuing TMT's permit. Mauna Kea Hui leadership called today's ruling excellent news.
Protesters, who say they're standing in protection of the mountain as a sacred Native Hawaiian place, had already begun to gather on Mauna Kea in anticipation of TMT crews who were scheduled to returning to the mountain Wednesday morning for routine maintenance and repair work on construction equipment that has sat idle for the last seven months. Work has been stalled since April amid protests, the largest of which was in June -- when more than 750 people gathered to block TMT crews from reaching their construction site on the summit.
Rocks and boulders were pulled onto the road to prevent access and eventually, TMT officials called the effort off and turned their crews around citing concerns for their safety. More details as they continue to develop on Hawaii News Now.