Legislative Rebuff

It appears that every single bill attempting to address Mauna Kea issues is dead, at least for the 2019 session.

The moon rising in partial eclipse over the mauna shadow
The moon rising in partial eclipse over the mauna shadow

March first is a deadline referred to as ‘first decking’ in local legislative lingo. This is the date by which the bill must be in final form to allow review before the final votes. No vote, no crossover, being passed to the opposite chamber, house or senate.

Continue reading “Legislative Rebuff”

The 2019 State Legislature and The Mauna

The deadline for the introduction of new bills in the Hawaii legislature’s 2019 session has passed and we can see that at least six bills directly address Mauna Kea.

Mauna Kea seen at dawn from Mauna Loa
Mauna Kea seen at dawn from Mauna Loa

We have previously discussed HB1067, the development moratorium bill addressing Mauna Kea lands above 6,000ft. The remainder are less direct, but are no less aimed squarely at the controversies surrounding new astronomy facilities on Mauna Kea.

  • HB1067 Prohibits any development on conservation lands of the Mauna Kea summit at 6,000 feet above sea level and higher.
  • SB905 Requires the lessor of a master lease for public land to receive reasonable compensation.
  • SB916 Requires that the board of land and natural resources make certain determinations before approving public land dispositions. Restricts the board of land and natural resources from approving the disposition of public lands under certain circumstances
  • SB918 Limits the term of certain public land leases, including any extensions, to no more that thirty-five years.
  • SB933 Requires that the board of land and natural resources conduct a rent review of all leases and subleases of public land once every ten years.
  • SB936 Removes 2/3 of the funds from the university managed Mauna Kea special fund. 1/3 to a new Hawaiian Homelands managed special fund. An additional 1/3 to a new Department of Land and Natural Resources special fund.

Many of these bills do not address the mauna by name, but even a quick reading and familiarity with the issue reveals that there is no other reason for these bills to have been advanced.

What do all of these bills have in common? With the exception of House Bill 1067 all of the senate bills were introduced, and likely authored in large part by state Senator Kaialiʻi Kahele.

It appears that Senator Kahele has made it his mission to destroy astronomy on Mauna Kea. When last year’s blatant attempts in the legislature failed, he has become more circumspect, attempting to add layers of bureaucratic barriers to changing anything on the mauna.

SB916 is the clearest example of this. Not only would it likely make any use permit of Mauna Kea legally impossible, it would have the same effect on all state lands.

It is worth going through the bills individually, considering the possible implications of the language. Over the next few days DarkerView will do just that, examining each of these bills.

Taken individually some of these bills seem reasonable enough, when considered as a group it becomes clear there is a distinct goal. This is not about improving management or oversight of the mauna, there are better ways to accomplish improvement. This is about ending astronomy on Mauna Kea.

HB1067 Mauna Kea Development Moratorium

With the Hawaii state legislature now in session we now have a clear view of those bills targeting the controversy on Mauna Kea. While of the bills concerning the mauna are indirect, one is quite direct. HB1067 is a complete ban on any development above 6,000ft on Mauna Kea. Blunt and simple.

The Thirty Meter Telescope
An artist concept of TMT at night, with the laser guide star system illuminated.

Introduced by representative Amy A. Perruso  representing central Oahu district 46, Launani Valley and Wahiawa . The bill has a long introduction, but a very simple change to the state statutes…

§304A-    Mauna Kea conservation district lands; development; prohibition.  Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, no new construction or development on conservation lands on the Mauna Kea summit located at six thousand feet above sea level and higher shall take place after December 31, 2019.

HB1067 from the 2019 Hawaii Legislature
Continue reading “HB1067 Mauna Kea Development Moratorium”

Proposed Legislation

There are quite a few different bills proposed for this session of the Hawaii legislature that address astronomy and Mauna Kea. Of the more interesting there are proposals for an independant manangement body for the mauna, 4WD drive access to Mauna Kea and Waipio valley, addressing light pollution, and an audit of OMKM.

Mauna Kea Sunrise
Sunrise over Mauna Kea greets me on the morning commute.
As some of these proposals have a direct effect on the mauna and upon me personally I intend to address each of these proposals in blog posts. I also intend to submit testimony on these bills, reading and blogging on them will help.

Just added! (12Feb2018)

As usual for the Hawaii legislature there is occasionally both a house and senate version some of the bills. These must be reconciled in the end as they wend through the rather interesting process our state lege uses. Several of these have passed first reading, the first weeding out of bills in the process for this session.

Green Laser Trouble

Sounds like someone acting very foolishly has pointed a green laser at aircraft around the Hilo airport. Thanks to Baron for noting the HPD press release on the issue. I wonder if there is someone out there who is unaware that aiming a laser at an aircraft is a violation of federal law.

Lasers at the VIS
Green lasers in use at the Mauna Kea VIS nightly observing with the Milky Way high overhead
Green lasers have been in the news quite a bit over recent years, ever since they became inexpensive enough that people buy them on a whim. Lasers in the under 100mW range used to cost hundreds of dollars, can now be ordered on-line for less than fifty dollars. There have been multiple incidents of these lasers pointed at commercial and law enforcement aircraft. Fortunately the usual result is simply distraction for the pilot and no accidents have been reported from laser interference with flight operations.

These lasers are also immensely useful. At the VIS and other local star parties we use green lasers to point out the constellations and to educate our visitors about the sky. There is nothing like being able to point out a specific star, nebula or galaxy directly, you can instantly connect an entire audience with the sky without the usual confusion. Friday night it was a green laser that served as a link to the stars when I used it on the patio of the Mauna Kea VIS.

I use a laser under 30mW, bright enough to be seen by a large crowd, as well as being visible with a bright Moon in the sky, but with a low enough power to be reasonably safe. Above about 50mW these laser pointers become much more dangerous as the laser can inflict injury to the eye faster than you can blink and turn away. Fortunately there is almost no air traffic over Mauna Kea making this a place where you can use the lasers with little worry. Another personal rule I follow is to never let kids handle this laser, even though they always clamor to see this bright wonder of technology.

I can only hope this issue does not attract the attention of our reactionary county council, they have a tendency to ban anything that even seems dangerous. This would be another classic case of one stupid person creating problems for those of us who use a technology responsibly.