From our legal-intern Bianca Isaki:
The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation of Hawaiÿi (NHLC) has filed a legal action on behalf of Kilakila `O Haleakalä, a Native Hawaiian community organized toward the protection of the sacred summit of Haleakalä on Maui, against the University of Hawaiÿi (UH) and the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). On December 1, 2010, a DLNR Board approved a management plan and a conservation district use application for the construction and operation of an Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) on the Haleakalä summit. The National Science Foundation has pledged $20 million of the $298 million price tag for the ATST, which is supposed to be running by 2017.
Yet, the plans for the solar telescope are riddled with contradictions. The UH management plan asserts that its Haleakalä project will have “no significant impact” at the same time that its conservation district use application describes ATST’s adverse impacts on cultural and visual resources that “no mitigation would adequately reduce.”
Many questions also surround the Board’s approval. The ATST project fails the Board’s own guidelines for conservation district use, yet the permit was granted without even a public hearing. The Board has an established practice of holding contested case hearings when groups with standing, like Kilakila `O Haleakalä, request them. So, why was their request denied when they have clear standing as a community stakeholder in a decision that will significantly impact them and the public at large? Although ATST supporters have enlisted a number of Native Hawaiians in a working group committee to “make sure it [the ATST] has minimal impact,” the project’s consideration of Native Hawaiian rights seems dubious in light of the ways that Kilakila `O Haleakalä has been shut out from substantive aspects of the process.
NHLC attorneys raise these questions as well as the most glaringly obvious one, why is a telescope being installed (and its ancillary buildings, parking lots, wastewater treatment facilities, electric generators and transformers) in a “conservation district”? According to the UH and a federal assessment, installing the ATST is predicted to adversely impact natural resources; so, why is the project moving forward?
The Kilakila `O Haleakalä pleading asks the 1st District Court to require that a full Environmental Impact Statement be done for activities proposed on the Haleakalä summit, to void the Board’s approvals of the UH’s Environmental Assessment, Management Plan, and Conservation District Use Application, grant a contested case hearing, and to declare the ATST project an “industrial complex” that is inconsistent with conservation land use.