HILO, Hawaii – The evidentiary phase of the Thirty Meter Telescope contested case hearing that began in October 2016 finally wrapped-up on Thursday evening.
After 44 days and 70 other witnesses, William Freitas took the stand to deliver the final testimony of the proceeding. Freitas, who throughout the proceeding has been building a case in support of traditional cultural practices on Mauna Kea, defended the ‘ahu he helped to construct on the site of the proposed TMT as he spoke from the witness stand.
The hearing ended with an complimentary back-and-forth between TMT International Observatory attorney Doug Ing and Freitas; a rare exchange between the two philosophically opposed individuals who both worked hard for months to make their case during the often tense hearing.
When given the chance to present a statement on redirect, Freitas stated with deep conviction that the stone ‘ahu built on the site of TMT “cannot be touched.”
“The ‘ahu is sealed from this day forward,” Freitas said, “until such time that the kupunas tell me such.”
“Do not move forward on this project,” Freitas warned.
“Mr. Freitas, thank you very much,” hearing officer and retired judge Riki May Amano said immediately after. “You are witness number 71. You are the last one. And you are released.”
Before leaving, all participants – those for and against the TMT project, including Judge Amano – joined hands in the Crown Room of the Hilo Grand Naniloa Hotel where they spent so much time over the last several months – in song and closing prayer.
This was the second contested case hearing over the state-issued conservation district use permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope. The first hearing occurred in 2011. The outcome was decided in favor of granting the permit to the University of Hawaii in order to enable the building of the TMT, but the permit to construct the observatory was vacated by the Hawaii Supreme Court on appeal in December 2015. The high court ruled the state violated due process when the land board granted approval for the permit before the first contested case hearing was held.
Now that the testimonial phase of the hearing redux is finished, the participants – both in favor of and opposed to the $1.5 billion observatory – will move the exhibits into evidence by written motion before a March 9 deadline. A week later, objections, responses, replies and joinders may be filed in regards to the exhibits. A week after that, Amano will decide what to accept as official evidence.
The participants will then go through the transcripts to build their proposed decision-and-orders in the case. It could take five to six weeks to for the court reporter to transcribe the 50 volumes worth of testimony. When those transcripts are finished, the participants will have 30 days to furnish their final arguments.