HONOLULU — A leader of a group of opponents trying to stop a giant telescope from being built on a Hawaii mountain said she is concerned they are at a disadvantage because they can’t afford to pay for thousands of pages of transcripts.
Kealoha Pisciotta, on behalf of the Mauna Kea Anaina Hou group, filed a petition last week asking the state land board to put online transcripts of testimony spanning 44 days of hearings to determine whether the project should be granted a construction permit.
The petition said opponents need to cite details from the transcripts to meet a May 30 deadline to draft arguments that a hearings officer will consider in making a recommendation.
On Thursday, another group of opponents informed the hearing officer that the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is helping get the transcripts and will make them available online to all the parties fighting the telescope, including Pisciotta’s group.
“They should have conferred with us,” Pisciotta said of the group, KAHEA: The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance. “That’s not what we’re asking for. We’re asking for the transcripts to be free.”
Court reporters must be paid for transcripts they produce, said Yuklin Aluli, an attorney representing KAHEA. “It was obvious to me we needed transcripts,” she said, declining to disclose how much OHA is paying. “We’ve been trying to get it subsidized by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs from the outset.”
The office, a semi-autonomous state agency tasked with improving the well-being of Native Hawaiians, did not immediately respond Friday to requests for comment about assisting with the transcripts.
“We are totally grateful for any assistance,” Pisciotta said, “but it doesn’t fix the problem.”
If Pisciotta is unhappy, she can opt out of receiving a password to access the 10,000 pages of transcripts, Aluli said.
Quibbling over the transcripts is another tactic to delay a decision on the permit, lawyers representing Thirty Meter Telescope said in a case filing opposing Pisciotta’s petition.
The state land board purchased a copy of the transcripts, but Department of Land and Natural Resources spokesman Dan Dennison said he could not provide a cost because court reporter invoices are outstanding. The department paid $3,500 to make five copies available at some public libraries, he said.
Contested-case hearings were necessary after the state Supreme Court invalidated an earlier permit issued by the board.
Testifiers included Native Hawaiians who believe the project will harm cultural and religious practices on Mauna Kea and Native Hawaiians who believe it will provide jobs and educational opportunities.
The hearings officer will recommend whether the land board should grant the permit.
If there are exceptions filed to the hearings officer’s recommendations, the land board will hear arguments before issuing a written decision.