December 4, 2015
Aloha <<First Name>>
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser published an editorial this morning in support of the Thirty Meter Telescope. Read the full article below:
Building TMT still worthy goal
It is hugely disappointing that the Thirty Meter Telescope’s permission to start construction atop Mauna Kea has been revoked, a significant blow that will set the $1.4 billion project back years, if it is to be built here at all.
It’s now up to the TMT global consortium to make the crucial decision of whether to proceed — again — down the state’s regulatory road at the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.
We hope that it does, in the interest of stellar science that will benefit humankind — and on a more humble, relatable level, for the academic and economic benefits to the state.
Hawaii officials, meanwhile, must now redouble efforts to repair an already tarnished reputation as a reliable place to do business.
The Hawaii Supreme Court on Wednesday found that the Land Board erred when it approved TMT’s conservation district use permit before holding a contested case hearing to consider evidence on whether the permit should be granted, violating due process rights.
“Quite simply, the board put the cart before the horse,” wrote Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald in the unanimous majority opinion.
Clearly, the Land Board — seven members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate — must get crystal clear about the procedural timetables and adhere stringently to them. To that end, the board should welcome the state Attorney General Office stepping in — which it did Wednesday, with AG Doug Chin promising to advise the board on its next steps.
“Today’s decision provides direction to a new Land Board and another opportunity for people to discuss Mauna Kea’s future,” Chin said.
With so much at stake, no more fundamental mistakes can afford to be made.
As for the TMT consortium, it has shown sincerity in its due diligence, engaging the Native Hawaiian community and concerned others throughout a tough seven-year permit and hearing process. As a result, TMT’s environmental impact statement closely aligns with the state’s Comprehensive Management Plan for Mauna Kea, which mitigated such concerns as protecting the wekiu bug, found only on this summit. Recent controversy over the TMT also has spurred improved stewardship of the mount, which is all for the good, plus a commitment that TMT would be the last telescope built there.
Thirteen telescopes already exist at Mauna Kea — three are on the path to decommissioning — but Native Hawaiian “protectors” want none more built atop a site they consider sacred. They rejoiced at the Supreme Court’s ruling, and vowed to continue opposing the TMT.
TMT lenses and components are in production off-island, and TMT officials previously indicated the project would proceed regardless of major court delay. But Henry Yang, TMT board chairman, was noncommittal in his post-ruling statement, saying, “We are assessing our next steps on the way forward.”
Should TMT decide to proceed here, there is no doubt the permit process will be as arduous as the first go-round, perhaps more so, given the solidarity and social-media savvy shown by those keeping vigil atop Mauna Kea. That is why community backers of TMT must emerge visibly and staunchly in future hearings, should it come to that. The University of Hawaii, for one, did just that Wednesday, stating it “continues to believe that Mauna Kea is a precious resource where science and culture can synergistically coexist, now and into the future, and remains strongly in support of the Thirty Meter Telescope.”
When it comes to big-thinking, prestigious ventures, Hawaii has a bad knack for bumbling proposals that make sense. The flawed permitting process for TMT was just the latest thrashed by the Supreme Court. About six years back, the Hawaii Superferry ultimately failed due to procedural corner-cutting over a lacking environmental impact statement.
“The ancient Hawaiians were astronomers,” wrote Queen Liliuokalani in 1897. Guided by the stars and studying the elements, they navigated across the Pacific.
Surely, TMT — which would be the world’s most advanced telescope, respectfully managed above the clouds at Mauna Kea — stands to be a positive, profound extension of that wayfaring culture.
The Thirty Meter Telescope Project has been developed as collaboration among Caltech, UC, the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), and the national institutes of Japan, China, and India with the goal to design, develop, construct, and operate a thirty-meter class telescope and observatory on Mauna Kea in cooperation with the University of Hawaii (TMT Project). The TMT International Observatory LLC (TIO), a non-profit organization, was established in May 2014 to carry out the construction and operation phases of the TMT Project. The Members of TIO are Caltech, UC, the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan, the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Department of Science and Technology of India, and the National Research Council (Canada); the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) is a TIO Associate. Major funding has been provided by the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation.
For more information about the TMT project, visit tmt.org, www.facebook.com/TMTHawaii or follow @TMTHawaii.