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SpaceX’s Texas Site Needs Full Environmental Review, Conservationists Say

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — The Federal Aviation Administration today declined to conduct a full environmental review of the proposed expansion of SpaceX’s launch site at Boca Chica, Texas, despite calls from conservation organizations to take a closer look at the environmental impacts of the rocket launches.

The groups are concerned by the FAA’s claim that the use of the Boca Chica site will not have significant environmental impacts. Based on that claim, the agency will not do an environmental impact statement.

SpaceX intends to increase its use of the facility to launch dozens of super-heavy spacecrafts into orbit. The expansion plan, which requires FAA approval, will put endangered species like the piping plover and the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle at risk.

Conservation groups note that building and operating the site will dramatically increase light, heat and environmental pollution. The project will also further increase the risk of wildfires due to exploding rockets. Several recent SpaceX explosions have caused damage to critical habitat areas.

“The mitigation measures that SpaceX is proposing are absolutely inadequate and won’t save Boca Chica’s incredibly important migratory bird habitat,” said Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Federal aviation officials have been shirking their responsibility, but the FAA has a legal obligation to take a hard look at the environmental harms of this expansion.”

The groups say that the FAA must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and undertake a comprehensive analysis to assess and mitigate damage to endangered species, critical habitat and other public trust resources.

“The ocean, waves and beaches belong to all people and everyone should have access to these special places,” said the Surfrider Foundation’s regional manager, Sarah Damron. “The proposed SpaceX project would close the only public roadway connecting surrounding communities to Boca Chica Beach, the nearby state park land, and National Wildlife Refuge, for up to 800 hours annually. That is nearly three times longer than the current number of hours permitted and would severely hinder the public and local communities from being able to access these important coastal resources.”

“The diversity of endangered wildlife surrounding the SpaceX Boca Chica site is unlike any other place in the United States,” said Dr. Shari Wilcox, senior Texas representative with Defenders of Wildlife. “This area is home to rare and remarkable animals like ocelots, aplomado falcons and five different sea turtles. It deserves careful attention to the environmental impacts of these expanding activities.”

The Boca Chica site is a small property surrounded by some of the most important habitat for migratory birds in the United States. During migration, species from the Central and Mississippi flyways converge on this area, making it an essential stopover for migratory birds. However, much of the habitat in the region has been lost, relegating these birds to remnant tracts.

The facility abuts the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 1979 specifically to connect and protect these isolated tracts of habitat. The Boca Chica tract of the refuge is an important link in the wildlife corridor. Not only does it provide crucial habitat for endangered birds, but it is also one of the few nesting places of Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, one of the most critically endangered sea turtles in the world.

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The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s ocean, waves and beaches for all people through a powerful activist network. Learn more at surfrider.org.

Defenders of Wildlife is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With nearly 2.2 million members and supporters, Defenders is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visitdefenders.org/newsroom and follow us on Twitter @Defenders.