Judge invalidates rule against telescope mountain protests

AP News
|
Posted: Oct 10, 2015 3:44 AM
Judge invalidates rule against telescope mountain protests

HONOLULU (AP) — A judge issued a decision late Friday invalidating the state's emergency rule aimed at curbing protests against the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop the Big Island mountain of Mauna Kea, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/1QfygzX).

The Hawaii circuit court granted a partial motion for summary judgment, according to a joint statement issued late Friday by state Attorney General Douglas Chin and state Board of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case.

"The state acknowledges the court's decision and will abide by it," the statement said. "We remind people traveling to Mauna Kea that even in light of today's ruling existing laws and rules remain. It is always illegal to block the road. This includes standing in the road or placing obstructions in the road. These laws will continue to be enforced."

David Kauila Kopper, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit against the rule on behalf of a Hawaii resident, praised the decision as honoring the wishes of Native Hawaiians who regard the mountain as sacred.

"The State adopted an illegal rule to prevent opposition to the TMT at the expense of sincere cultural practices and public expression," Kopper, who works with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, said in a statement.

The state land board approved the emergency rule after a heated July 10 public meeting.

Protesters have been camping on the mountain in an attempt to block construction. Construction has stalled since April, and the company hasn't indicated when it will resume.

The rule prohibited being within a mile of the Mauna Kea access road between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., unless in a moving vehicle. The rule also prohibited, at any time, sleeping bags, camping stoves, tens and propane burners on the mountain.

Last month, TMT International Observatory announced that, despite the protests, it still expects the Thirty Meter Telescope to be ready in 2024.

TMT officials said design and production of telescope parts and structures have continued in the six months since protests halted land clearing at the construction site, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.