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Mauna Kea Hui 'very thankful' for EPA stance on Thirty Meter Telescope

FILE - Observatories on Maunakea on Hawaiʻi Island in 2022.
Zoe Dym
FILE - Observatories on Maunakea on Hawaiʻi Island in 2022.

The Biden administration has made environmental equity in underserved communities a key priority, and Monday announced it is creating an environmental justice office within the Environmental Protection Agency. Some are wondering if that is behind the latest filing by the EPA over the future of Maunakea.

The EPA urged the National Science Foundation to consider the cultural impacts of the Thirty Meter Telescope project, possibly considering a smaller footprint, and to weigh the option of other locations.

The EPA said building TMT as proposed has the potential to result in “disproportionately high and adverse impacts to Native Hawaiians.”

The Conversation talked to Kealoha Pisciotta, spokesperson for the Mauna Kea Hui, about seeing Maunakea through the environmental justice lens. Pisciotta says she was happy to hear the EPA's stance on Maunakea.

"I am very thankful for the EPA's statement and assessment," she told The Conversation. "EPA is a major federal agency that has oversight over things involving the environment, and also the human environment in the way that the human environment is reliant upon the environment itself."

Robert Kirshner, executive director of the Thirty Meter Telescope International Observatory LLC, said in a statement, “Mauna Kea is of great significance to many and it is essential for there to be a thorough assessment of the effects on the mountain's cultural, biological, visual and geological resources. The ongoing federal review process is key to ensuring the community has the opportunity to share their views to fully inform the National Science Foundation of the potential effects of the TMT project.”

This interview aired on The Conversation on Sept. 26, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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