Several groups who oppose the Thirty Meter Telescope have filed a new lawsuit against the $1.4 billion project atop Mauna Kea on Hawaii Island.

The complaint filed Monday in Hilo in the Third Circuit Court contends that the TMT failed to post a security bond equivalent to the cost of the project as required by the state Department of Land and Natural Resource’s 1977 Mauna Kea Plan.

The plaintiffs include several Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners who have been active in opposing the project and an organization called Mauna Kea Anaina Hou. Defendants include Gov. David Ige, Attorney General Clare Connors, University of Hawaii president David Lassner, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, the Thirty Meter Telescope and multiple members of the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Kealoha Pisciotta speaks in opposition to TMT on Mauna Kea outside the Kalanimoku Building.
Kealoha Pisciotta speaks in opposition to TMT on Mauna Kea outside the Kalanimoku Building during a protest. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“We just can’t live under this kind of lawlessness. They know what the requirements are and they don’t do it,” Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the plaintiffs, said Tuesday. “Litigating is one way to have the courts correct things when they go astray like this.”

She said this is just the first of a number of legal actions that the cultural practitioners are considering taking against the TMT this year.

The planned observatory has already been the subject of lawsuits and contested case hearings for several years. Supporters say the telescope would see into deep space and aid with scientific discoveries, but opponents say it shouldn’t be built atop Mauna Kea, a mountain that many Native Hawaiians consider sacred. There are more than a dozen telescopes on the mountain already.

TMT attorney Douglas Ing said through a spokesman that he reviewed the complaint briefly Tuesday.

“We believe this is a weak lawsuit and we expect to defeat it,” he said.

A spokesman for UH said the bond issue was already addressed during a contested case hearing about the TMT and the state Supreme Court still upheld the project permit. He said the latest master plan was approved in 2009.

Ige announced June 20 that the state has given the TMT approval to begin construction. A spokesman for the TMT said that the organization hoped to start construction as soon as possible.

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