Hawaii Supreme Court Hears Case Against Controversial Telescope

HONOLULU (AP) – Hawaii’s Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case involving building one of the world’s largest telescopes on Mauna Kea.

Opponents, who are against building the Thirty Meter Telescope on land that many Native Hawaiians consider sacred, are challenging a permit that would allow the telescope to be built on conservation land on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Lawyers delivered opening arguments in the case Thursday, and justices questioned why the state department that issued the permit did so when there were ongoing challenges to the project. The judges also discussed the impact of one more telescope on the mountain.

In a packed courtroom with more than 200 onlookers, the telescope opponents softly sang a ballad called “Ku Haaheo,” which is Hawaiian for “stand proud,” before and after the proceedings. One man held a bundle of ti leaves high in the air as they sang.

“Mauna Kea is more than a mountain. It is the embodiment of the Hawaiian people,” Richard Naiwieha Wurdeman, attorney for petitioners, told the court.

“This is, as the court is well aware, one of the most significant and important cultural sites in Hawaii. It is the source of the geological story of the Hawaiian people,” Wurdeman continued.

Astronomers revere the site because Mauna Kea’s summit at nearly 14,000 feet is well above the clouds, and provides a clear view of the sky for 300 days a year.

“The ultimate final decision of the board granting the (permit) represents the culmination of a process of years of community outreach, of dialogue, of listening, revising, reducing, modifying, mitigating, conditioning to a degree that is unprecedented in the history of astronomy at Mauna Kea,” said Jay Handlin, attorney for the University of Hawaii, which sub-leases the land atop Mauna Kea for the telescope project.

While the state Board of Land and Natural —> Read More