Hearing officer recommends permit approval for controversial Thirty Meter Telescope

(Artist rendition courtesy TMT Project)

The contested case hearing officer for the Thirty Meter Telescope is recommending that the controversial project move forward.

In a report issued Wednesday, retired Hawaii island judge Riki May Amano recommends that the Board of Land and Natural Resources approves a Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) for TMT’s construction at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve.

“Based upon the findings of fact and conclusions of law contained herein, the TMT Project is consistent with the eight criteria of HAR § 13-5-30(c), and UH Hilo has proven by a preponderance of the evidence that it meets the requirements for the granting of the CDUP for the TMT Project,” Amano wrote.

View the “Proposed Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Decision and Order” in its entirety here.

Those eight criteria are:

  1. “The proposed land use is consistent with the purpose of the conservation district[.]”
  2. “The proposed land use is consistent with the objectives of the subzone of the land on which the use will occur[.]”
  3. “The proposed land use complies with provisions and guidelines contained in chapter 205A, HRS, entitled ‘Coastal Zone Management’, where applicable[.]”
  4. “The proposed land use will not cause substantial adverse impact to existing natural resources within the surrounding area, community, or region[.]”
  5. “The proposed land use, including buildings, structures, and facilities, shall be compatible with the locality and surrounding areas, appropriate to the physical conditions and capabilities of the specific parcel or parcels[.]”
  6. “The existing physical and environmental aspects of the land, such as natural beauty and open space characteristics, will be preserved or improved upon, whichever is applicable[.]”
  7. “Subdivision of land will not be utilized to increase the intensity of land uses in the conservation district[.]”
  8. “The proposed land use will not be materially detrimental to the public health, safety, and welfare.”

In December 2015, the Hawaii Supreme Court said a permit previously issued by the Board of Land and Natural Resources to build TMT was not valid, because “the Board put the cart before the horse when it issued the permit before the request for a contested case hearing was resolved and the hearing was held. Accordingly, the permit cannot stand.”

Now that the hearing is complete and the order has been issued, the board will set a deadline for the parties to file exceptions to her recommendations, and another deadline for the parties to file responsive briefs to the exceptions.

A date will also be set for oral argument before the board, after which it will issue its final written decision and order.

TMT executive director Ed Stone said in a statement:

“TMT welcomes the recommendation that a state permit be issued and we respectfully look forward to the next steps. We appreciate that Judge Riki Amano worked carefully and tirelessly to ensure all voices were heard during the contested case hearing. We are grateful to all our supporters and friends who have been with us during the hearing process and over the past ten years and we remain respectful of the process to ensure the proper stewardship of Maunakea.”

Dan Ahuna, vice chair of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees, issued the following statement:

“As chair of the OHA Board of Trustees Ad Hoc Committee on Mauna Kea, I have led an effort to discuss ideas with Governor Ige, the DLNR and the UH on ways to better manage Mauna Kea for nearly two years. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs has participated in good faith 100% in this effort, having gone back to the drawing board multiple times to craft proposals that could accommodate all interests while trying to encourage a meaningful and significant role for the Native Hawaiian community in the management of Mauna Kea. These talks with Governor Ige stalled on numerous occasions, only to be reignited when OHA threatened to sue the State over its mismanagement of Mauna Kea.

“I find it troubling that Judge Amano has essentially rubber stamped this project with no assurances that the voices of the Native Hawaiian community will be accommodated and has provided a recommendation for for UH to move forward without having adopted administrative rules for Mauna Kea as it has been instructed to do since 2009.

“I am only one of nine voices on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees, but I believe it is in the best interests of OHA and the Native Hawaiian community for OHA to finally follow through and take legal action. The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet on August 1st, 2017 to discuss Mauna Kea. My recommendation will be to file suit against the State and UH immediately to ensure proper mechanisms are created and implemented before this or any other project breaks ground on Mauna Kea.”

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