Lā 282: TMT judgment sent to Circuit Court after delay

Honolulu Star Advertiser  By Timothy Hurley Posted on January 1, 2016 1:30 am

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The Hawaii Supreme Court has finally sent off its Thirty Meter Telescope judgment to the 3rd Circuit Court after voiding the project’s conservation land use permit Dec. 2.

The judgment, remanded Tuesday, instructs the lower court to return the case to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources for a new contested case hearing and possibly “other proceedings consistent with the opinion.”

No further specific instructions on how to proceed were attached to the judgment.

The state, however, had still not received the case from the Circuit Court as of Wednesday.

Joshua Wisch, special assistant to state Attorney General Doug Chin, said it’s possible the lower court could provide further direction to state officials.

The TMT International Observatory Board indicated last week it was waiting for the state to outline a new permitting process and projected timetable before deciding what to do next.

A spokeswoman for the Hawaii State Judiciary said the delay in sending the judgment was procedural as required by law.

According to state rules, the parties involved in the case can file a motion for reconsideration or to seek clarification from the court within 10 days after the filing of the opinion. The parties may also seek to recover fees and costs no later than 14 days after the time for filing a motion for reconsideration has expired.

“Since the deadlines have now passed and the court did not receive any filings since the opinion was issued, the court issued the judgment,” said Tammy Mori, Hawaii State Judiciary spokeswoman.

The judgment, as written, reads just like the Dec. 2 ruling:

“The matter is remanded to the Circuit Court to further remand to the Board of Land and Natural Resources so that a contested case hearing can be conducted before the board or a new hearing officer, or for other proceedings consistent with the opinion.”

On Dec. 2, the high court ruled that the BLNR erred in approving the project’s conservation district use permit before holding a contested case hearing.

A contested case, the court noted, is intended for the board to weigh additional evidence to fully evaluate a project before final approval.

The ruling likely means the $1.4 billion next-generation observatory, advertised as one of the most powerful ground-based telescopes in the world, is looking at years of delay as it faces the same legal and cultural forces it ran into during a seven-year regulatory process leading to this year’s scheduled, and ultimately aborted, start of construction.