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The state of Hawaii has decided to not replace the hearings officer in charge of the new permitting process for the Thirty Meter Telescope, despite a request by TMT to remove her.
There are different reasons for wanting to replace her. Telescope opponents raise conflict-of-interest concerns over her paid family membership to the Imiloa Astronomy Center. The university takes issue with her mediating another matter involving the Manoa campus. The nonprofit telescope company says replacing her with an alternate would avoid further delay.
“With due respect and consideration to the parties’ various interests and reasons for asking the board to replace Judge Amano, the board cannot and will not sidestep its own administrative responsibility to exercise judgment and common sense regarding whether the selection process up until now has objectively appeared to be fair,” the order said. “Common sense must prevail.”
The situation is a strange one. Despite the fact that the judge would likely rule fairly, TMT wanted her removed because they expect their opponents to eventually dispute any favorable decision she makes because of her link to the astronomy center. By refusing to remove her, the state is actually taking the side of the telescope’s opponents, since their main tactic is delay.
I hope TMT’s builders are making serious plans for finding an alternative site. I do not expect them to ever get permission to build in Hawaii.