The Hawaii Supreme Court on Wednesday vacated the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope’s permit to build an observatory atop Mauna Kea and sent the case back to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources for a contested case hearing.
The high court ruled that the board had “acted improperly when it issued the permit prior to holding a contest case hearing. No case or argument put forth by [University of Hawaii Hilo] or BLNR persuades otherwise.”
The opinion, which follows a decision by the high court last month to temporarily invalidate the TMT Observatory Corp.’s conservation district use permit, remands the case to the Circuit Court “to further remand to BLNR for proceedings consistent with this opinion so that a contested case hearing can be conducted before the board or a new hearing officer.”
Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, Clarence Ching, Flores-Case Ohana, Deborah Ward, Paul Neves, and KAHEA: The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance had sued the state BLNR and University of Hawaii at Hilo challenging the conservation district use permit issued on April 12, 2013.
The groups alleged they were denied due process when the permit was issued before their contested case hearing could be held.
The high court, which heard oral arguments in the case on Aug. 27, agreed.
“Quite simply, 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,” the court said in the opinion. “Accordingly, the permit cannot stand.”