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State Supreme Court rules TMT permit invalid; construction to remain on indefinite hold

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The state Supreme Court on Wednesday issued its ruling on a lawsuit filed by Mauna Kea Hui alleging that the state had violated due process and failed to properly issue permits for the Thirty-Meter Telescope.

The court said the Board of Land and Natural Resources "put the cart before the horse when it issued the permit before a contested case hearing was resolved and the hearing was held. Accordingly the permit cannot stand."

The court ordered that the matter be remanded to the state Circuit Court "so that a contested case hearing can be conducted before the board or a new hearing officer, or for other proceedings consistent with this opinion."

The decision comes on the same day an emergency stay blocking construction crews from working on the Thirty Meter Telescope site was set to expire.

The two-week injunction was issued by justices the day before crews planned to return to Mauna Kea’s summit to begin repair and maintenance on equipment, which has sat idle for months. The State Supreme Court issued the temporary halt to the $1.4 billion telescope project, while they continued to consider the legal challenge over the validity of the TMT's permits.

Work has been stalled since April amid protests, the largest of which was in June -- when more than 750 people gathered to block TMT crews from reaching their construction site on the summit. Rocks and boulders were pulled onto the road to prevent access and eventually, TMT officials called the effort off and turned their crews around citing concerns for their safety. Protesters, who call themselves Protectors, say they’re standing in protection of the mountain as a sacred Native Hawaiian place.

A TMT spokesperson confirms construction, which was originally scheduled to start in April 2015 and take eight years to complete, would have meant the telescope would be operational by 2024.

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