Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thirty Meter Telescope Should Be Approved With Conditions, Hawaiian Supreme Court Judge Says

          By Chuck Black

A year and a half after its Hawaiian construction permit was revoked, and over a year after beginning discussions on the possible relocation of the project to the Canary Islands, a Hawaiian Supreme Court judge has recommended that a new permit should be issued for construction of the controversial 30 Metre Telescope (TMT) on the big island of Hawaii.

An artist’s rendering of the TMT complex. There are presently thirteen other telescopes on top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii,  where the TMT is expected to be built. But the TMT is also 18 stories high and would not only be the biggest telescope on Mauna Kea but also the biggest building on the Big Island. It's also subject to the rule of the special conservation district where it, and all those other astronomical facilities, are located. Graphic c/o Thirty Meter Telescope. 

As outlined in the July 27th, 2017 CBS News post, "New twist in legal battle over big plans for Hawaii mountaintop," retired Hawaiian judge Riki May Amano, who is overseeing contested-case hearings for the TMT, has issued a 300+ page proposed decision, which includes a recommendation that the board issue a new construction permit.

But the new permit will come with over thirty conditions. These include:
  • The state land board will set a deadline for telescope opponents and permit applicants to file arguments against her recommendations. 
  • The board will later hold a hearing and then make the final decision on the project's conservation district use permit.
  • TMT employees will attend "mandatory cultural and natural resources training" and employment opportunities be filled locally "to the greatest extent possible."
  •  Guidance on how to handle newly-discovered burial and cultural sites, requirements for "substantial rent" on the facility and the establishment of a $1Mln US ($1.25Mln CDN) per year fund for STEM education in the local community.
As outlined in the article:
Protests disrupted a groundbreaking and Hawaiian blessing ceremony at the site in 2014. After that, the protests intensified. Construction stopped in April 2015 after 31 protesters were arrested for blocking the work. A second attempt to restart construction a few months later ended with more arrests and crews retreating when they encountered large boulders in the road. 
The telescope has become one of the most divisive issues in the state, with some telescope supporters saying they are afraid to publicly express their stance on the project.

As outlined in the December 6th, 2015 post, "Hawaii Supreme Court Rescinds Permit to Build Thirty Meter Telescope," Canada is one of the TMT funders, with the Federal government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper having contributed $243.5Mln CDN in 2015 towards the $1.4Bln US ($1.8Bln CDN) total cost of the TMT.

As outlined in the Thirty Meter Telescope website, "the nonprofit TMT Observatory Corporation was founded in June 2003 by its partners: the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), the University of California (UC), and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech)."

Of course, the project is still in a state of flux, no matter what any single judge might happen to recommend. As outlined in July 27th, 2017 Hawaii News Now post, "TIMELINE: A look back at the TMT project — and what could happen next," no one really knows what's going to happen next.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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