Hawaii Supreme Court Stops Work On Controversial Giant Telescope

What was to become one of the world’s largest and most advanced telescopes may not be built at all.

The Hawaii Supreme Court on Wednesday invalidated a construction permit for the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope to be built atop the Big Island’s Mauna Kea mountain.

The justices ruled the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources violated due process when it approved the permit in 2011, prior to holding a hearing to evaluate a petition by a group challenging the project.

“Quite simply, the board put the cart before the horse,” Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald wrote.

The ruling means those behind the Thirty Meter Telescope must return to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources and apply for a new permit for construction. The project has already spent seven years in the approval process.

The observatory had been scheduled for completion by 2024. But beginning with its groundbreaking ceremony more than a year ago, Native Hawaiians and environmentalists succeeded in stalling the construction via a series of coordinated protests. Many Native Hawaiians consider the summit of Mauna Kea to be a sacred location, and project opponents often refer to themselves as “protectors” of the mountain.

Confrontations between construction crews and protestors on Mauna Kea resulted in dozens of arrests. For months, a core group of protesters have maintained a constant, 24-hour presence on the mountain to disrupt construction.

The demonstrations have sparked broader discussions about respect for indigenous cultures and the meaning of scientific progress.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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