(BIVN) – Oral arguments concerning the Thirty Meter Telescope, scheduled to take place next week, have been delayed.
A petition from the Mauna Kea Hui for a declaratory ruling concerning the TMT, set to go before the Board of Land and Natural Resources on July 28, was deferred on Wednesday.
Back in May 2021, the Mauna Kea Hui – comprised of various groups and individuals opposed to the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea – made a motion to reopen a previous contested case hearing, in order to hear a motion to “confirm non-compliance with condition no. 4, or, alternatively, petition for declaratory orders concerning the same”.
Condition 4, part of the Conservation District Use Permit for the project granted by the land board in September 2017, stipulates “any work done or construction to be done on the land shall be initiated within two (2) years of the approval of such use.” A two-year extension on the deadline to meet Condition 4 was granted by the land board in July 2019. That same month, opposition to the TMT project gathered at the base of the Mauna Kea Access Road, leading to a standoff with authorities that resulted in further project delays.
From the May 2021 petition by the Mauna Kea Hui:
By letter dated April 28, 2021, UHH wrote to the Administrator of the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands (OCCL) to notify him of “initiation of work and/ or construction” for the TMT in compliance with General Condition No. 4. Ching Decl. ¶3; Exh. 03. In support of their assertion that construction had initiated, UHH cited activities taking place between June 20, 2019 and July 16, 2019, prior to the Board Chair’s July 30, 2019 letter granting UHH’s extension request. Exh. 03 at 2. In addition to the June 25, 2019 and July 12, 2019 actions, UHH cited inspections for invasive species on July 15, 2019, a “Kick-Off Meeting” between TMT and its contractors to discuss construction on July 8, 2019, and removal of an ahu on June 20, 2019. Id.
The April 28, 2021 letter posted to the DLNR website has a stamp stating “approved”, signed by Suzanne Case and dated May 4, 2021.
The Mauna Kea Hui says “no construction or work on land was initiated under the plain and ordinary meaning of the terms.”
Just under two years later, in February 2023, an attorney for the Mauna Kea Hui made a second written request for ruling or hearing on the motion.
In July 2023, the land board scheduled arguments on the motion to be heard at the regular BLNR meeting on July 28.
The present land board chair, Dawn Chang, also filed a disclosure detailing her past history as principal of Hoʻakea LLC dba Kuʻiwalu, which was contracted by the University of Hawaiʻi back in 2007 to prepare a comprehensive management plan for the state leased Maunakea lands, managed by UH. “I do not believe that my previous work as a consultant in preparing the CMP or independently evaluating UH’s compliance with the CMP will affect my ability to be fair and objective in weighing the evidence and arguments fairly,” Chang stated.
The deferred hearing will be scheduled at a later date, the land board says.