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Hawaii Extends Thirty Meter Telescope Permit Amid Protests

In a move intended to de-escalate a standoff between scientists and native Hawaiians blocking the construction of a massive telescope on a mountaintop they believe to be sacred land, Gov. David Ige on Tuesday night rescinded an emergency proclamation that was issued to help remove demonstrators.

Ige made the announcement at a press conference saying there are no immediate plans to move heavy construction equipment onto Mauna Kea, the intended site of the Thirty Meter Telescope, which is expected to be the largest in the world, looking farther back into space and time than any other instrument is capable of doing.

"Because TMT construction is not imminent, I am withdrawing the emergency proclamation effective immediately," Ige said in a tweet.

"I remain committed to moving forward with this project in a peaceful way and will continue efforts to engage the community."

He cautioned the large crowds who have gathered in protest at the base of the mountain since mid-July, when construction was set to start, of hazardous conditions "in light of the potential bad weather." Two tropical storms are headed in the direction of the islands with the center of Hurricane Erick expected to pass just south of the Big Island on Friday.

Ige's move followed a decision by the Department of Land and Natural Resources to grant a two-year extension of the Conservation District Use permit deadline for the initiation of construction.

The request for the additional construction time was made by the University of Hawaii, one of several groups involved in the consortiumbehind the TMT, according to a statementfrom the department. The new deadlinefor the start of construction is Sept. 26, 2021.

In the meantime, Mauna Kea Access Road will remain closed and law enforcement will remain on site, the Associated Press reports.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Vanessa Romo
Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.