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Hawaii Supreme Court Suspends Construction Of Giant Telescope

The court has temporarily suspended construction on the Big Island's summit, which has been the site of protests by Hawaiians who say it's sacred.

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The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled 5-0 on Tuesday to grant an emergency stay that will temporarily prevent construction of a giant telescope on the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea, which Hawaiians say is sacred and has been the focal point of a long protest.

The motion filed Monday night by opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope asked to stop construction from resuming on Wednesday and argued that work at the summit could cause irreparable damage to the site.

The court's ruling prevents construction of the telescope until Dec. 2 or until another ruling is issued. The court heard arguments on the merits of the lawsuit in August.

The construction of the telescope first began in March but was halted the following month after 31 people were arrested for blocking construction.

The court's decision comes one day before Thirty Meter Telescope crews said they would work on maintenance at the site, while protesters gathered on Mauna Kea in anticipation of blocking the work from resuming.

"Just last week, TMT International Observatory Corporation announced that it was going to move forward with commencing construction as well as equipment maintenance some time this month," Richard Naiwieha Wurdeman, the plaintiff's attorney who filed the motion, told BuzzFeed News. "This was despite the decision still pending before the Hawaii Supreme Court."

"The stay means that TMT cannot perform any construction work, maintenance work on equipment, or anything else that is not permitted in the conservation district," Wurdeman added.

The motion against the telescope was filed by the Mauna Kea Hui, Kahea: The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance, and others who oppose the $1.4 billion project.

Hawaiians and activists have said the land is sacred and they are concerned about environmental destruction of the summit, which is home to the threatened wekiu bug.

Earlier Tuesday, Hawaii Gov. David Ige said he was committed to the telescope's plans to work on Wednesday.

“As governor, I am committed to upholding the law and providing safe access for those who need to get to the summit of Mauna Kea, and that includes those involved with the TMT project," the governor said.

The court has given the University of Hawaii and the Board of Land and Natural Resources until Nov. 24 to respond to the request.

“If this work is stopped, it is not a victory," Ige said. "It will harm the environment. If there is violence, as some have suggested, that is not a victory. We are one community and we must continue to search for a resolution that will keep this community together.”


Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.

Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at michelle@buzzfeed.com.

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