TMT Permit Approved

The Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) for the Thirty Meter Telescope has been granted. The Hearing Officer’s report is published and available for reading. And it is interesting reading! Quite oddly I do enjoy reading these legal documents, I have learned much about the summit through the various documents like this.

TMT Rendering
An overhead view of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope, credit TMT Observatory Corporation
The takeaway is that the petitioners in the contested case failed to prove their claims. Indeed, much of the report is quite critical to a number of claims made by the petitioners.

There are numerous claims that seem quite odd to anyone familiar with the summit, claims that were easily disproved during the investigative process. An “extensive fencing network”? What fences? Anyone who has visited the summit knows that there are no fences around the observatories at the summit. There are some small enclosures necessary to keep people safe around storage tanks and such. Well below the summit the VLBA antenna is enclosed for safety reasons, as is an electrical substation at Hale Pohaku.

49. Petitioners contend that a purported “subdivision” of land among the various existing observatories is evidenced by an “extensive fencing network.” Exhibit A-202 at 22. As was plain during the site visit, there is no “fencing network,” much less an “extensive” one, in the summit region of Mauna Kea.

Claims that the TMT would negatively impact the waters of Lake Waiau? The TMT is not located anywhere near the lake’s watershed. The petitioners engaged in legal mudslinging, throwing as many claims as possible at the case to see what would stick, a legal tactic I dislike immensely. Making such unfounded claims merely serves to discredit the petitioners, distracting the conversation away from the real issues involved in sharing the summit region.

466. Considering all of the evidence, including but not limited to the testimonies of Drs. Liu and Kauanui, and giving such evidence due weight, Petitioners have not offered reliable, probative, substantial, or credible evidence, scientific or otherwise, to suggest that the Project will be harmful to the health, safety, and welfare of native Hawaiians or anyone else.

There are reasonable cultural objections to the use of the mountain for astronomy. These are what must be addressed in this process. Can use of the summit be shared among the various parties? The report clearly comes to the conclusion that we can share the summit and that the presence of the new telescope can be minimized through proper measures.

101. Petitioners did not offer reliable, probative, substantial, and credible evidence, whether from expert or lay witnesses, that would support the conclusion that the TMT Project would cause substantial adverse impact to plants, aquatic life and wildlife, cultural, historic, and archaeological sites, minerals, recreational sites, geologic sites, scenic areas, ecologically significant areas, or watersheds.

There is a list of conditions, which seem quite reasonable… The staff must receive cultural and environmental education on the special nature of the summit of Mauna Kea. We do this at Keck, something I usually find quite interesting. They must use a completely enclosed waste water system. There must be an invasive species plan. Conditions around the construction site must be monitored, including arthropod populations, during construction and for two years afterwards. There is an extensive list that goes on from here…

e. The proposed land use, including buildings, structures, and
facilities, will be compatible with the locality and surrounding areas, appropriate
to the physical conditions and capabilities of the specific parcel or parcels

Will this be the end of the legal process? No. There is an additional hearing for the petitioners to take place before the Hearings Officer so that both sides may review the findings. It is also likely that at least one lawsuit will be filed in reaction to issuance of the CDUP. Unless there is some new legal issue these are unlikely to progress very far. The process so far has been quite exhaustive, any further legal action would simply be a rehashing of what we have already heard.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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