TMT opponents appeal project bond ruling

  • An artist's rendering of the Thirty Meter Telescope against backdrop of other Maunakea telescopes. COURTESY NAOJ/Special to West Hawaii Today

HONOLULU — Opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope filed an appeal of a court ruling rejecting their argument that the project requires a substantial security bond before beginning construction.

The lawsuit filed by the Mauna Kea Hui coalition was dismissed in August by Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.


Construction of one of the world’s largest telescopes on Hawaii’s tallest mountain, Maunakea, has been stalled by foes of the embattled project who say the telescope will desecrate land held sacred to some Native Hawaiians.

Mauna Kea Hui appealed partially because the bond issue was not fully heard at the case hearing, coalition leader Kea­loha Pisciotta said.

Hearing officer Riki May Amano unilaterally dismissed the topic without allowing arguments, Pisciotta said.

The appeal, filed last month by Big Island attorney Gary Zamber on behalf of Pisciotta and others, said the Mauna Kea Plan of 1977 requires every development to have a security bond equaling the project’s full cost.

The performance bond for the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory was essentially litigated during the project’s contested case hearing, Nakamura’s ruling said.

Telescope project attorney Douglas Ing said the lawsuit’s claim is weak.

“Judge Nakamura quickly and summarily dismissed the hui’s complaint and claims based on TIO’s motion,” Ing said last week.

The original claim rejected by Nakamura’s ruling sought an injunction and asked the court to rescind the project’s right to begin construction, arguing the failure to post a bond would impose onerous financial liability on state residents.

The observatory board does not have the necessary funding to finish the project, estimated to cost $2.4 billion following more than five years of protest and delays, Pisciotta said.


Project officials acknowledged before a National Academy of Sciences committee last week that they are hundreds of millions of dollars short.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include the observatory, Democratic Gov. David Ige, state Attorney General Clare Connors, state Land Board Chairwoman Suzanne Case, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, and University of Hawaii President David Lassner.

  1. John Smith March 24, 2020 5:42 am

    The Big Island is about to learn the hard way how desperately dependent it is on Tourism.

    Tourism is going away and won’t be coming back anytime soon.

    Would have been nice to diversify the economy a bit, but its too late for that.

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