SpaceX Proposal Draws Nationwide Support at FAA Hearing

Work is underway at the Starship site, seen here in August. SpaceX

The FAA held the first of two virtual public hearings regarding the development of SpaceX’s Starship and Super Heavy launches in Boca Chica, Texas. Dozens of attendees spoke during the public comment session, many of whom displayed their support for Elon Musk’s ambitious projects.

The meeting focused on SpaceX’s Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA), a document overviewing the potential impact of launches and construction on habitats and wildlife in and around Boca Chica.

According to the Draft PEA, SpaceX has proposed a laundry list of construction projects for the site:

  • Parking lots
  • Liquid natural gas pretreatment system
  • Methane liquefier
  • Payload processing facility
  • Trenches
  • Launch pads
  • Off-shore landing platforms
  • Towers
  • Desalination plant
  • 250-megawatt power plant

SpaceX has already conducted multiple missions from Boca Chica, including five high-altitude launches of its latest Starship prototype. SpaceX has previously seen multiple Starship prototypes explode on the launch pad, recently in March when mission SN11 exploded during its landing approach.

FAA Environmental Protection Specialist Stacey Zee opened the meeting by talking about the proposed construction and activity for the launch site, saying “it would emit air pollutants. Most of the emissions would occur from SpaceX’s proposed power plant and natural gas pretreatment and liquefaction.”

Of the almost 100 attendees that spoke, a vast majority of the comments in favor of SpaceX operations were from those who did not live in either the Boca Chica area or in the state of Texas.

Zee’s presentation was then repeated in Spanish, but the PowerPoint slides remained in their original English translation. This was a point of concern for many Boca Chica residents, who predominantly speak Spanish.

Locals have noted that the Draft PEA was not offered in any other languages and that this may violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Residents previously questioned whether or not the Spanish-speaking community had been properly notified of language accommodations prior to the meeting.

Attendee Gilberto Estrella delivered her comments in Spanish, but the English translation was not played back during the hearing—despite there being a dedicated translator on the call.

One of the most notable comments came from Brownsville City Commissioner Jessica Tetreau Kalifa, who pleaded for the approval of the launch site.

“I don’t just ask you, I beg you to give them that permit,” she said. “There are so many people here in the Brownsville area who have benefited from this project coming to our area.”

Others also called in their support of SpaceX.

“I don’t live near Texas. I have no stake in this currently, but I would just like to say that SpaceX is doing an amazing job in Texas and that I would like to see this process move a bit faster,” said commenter Edward Lukowsky.

Throughout some of the supportive comments, there were several mentions of the human race becoming a “multiplanetary species.” One commenter even quoted the Bible during her time, speaking of humanity’s dominion over the Earth.

“We are not created for the Earth. The Earth is created for us human beings,” said commenter Pearl Smith. “I’m looking forward to us becoming multiplanetary. Thank you, Elon Musk. Thank you, SpaceX.”

Emma Guevara, a lifelong local resident, shared her apparent disgust for the preceding comments.

“I am appalled by the audacity of all these pro-SpaceX supporters spouting the exact same rhetoric, spotted by a billionaire with nothing but his own interest in mind so that he can make more money off of his apartheid emeralds,” Guevara said. “This has nothing to do with you. Listen to directly impacted voices. The FAA needs to, at the very least, do an environmental impact statement, but at the most, this entire project should be canceled.”

As some commenters noted, the Draft PEA differs from that of an environmental impact assessment (EIS). Mary Branch, a local resident and board member for Save RGV, spoke in opposition to the list of proposed construction projects.

“None of these are addressed sufficiently in the Draft PEA, nor were they addressed, analyzed, or even mentioned and elements of future design and implementation in the original 2014 Environmental Impact Statement, which renders this draft invalid,” Branch said. “In conclusion, we deem this Draft PEA insufficient, inadequate, and lacking scrutiny and ask it to be rejected on its face and request a full environmental impact statement be conducted instead.”

Sharon Almaguer, a local resident, claimed that the SpaceX launches that have already taken place have become a nuisance for her home.

“I don’t know how you could say that the noise is, in any way, acceptable, or that the vibrations are, in any way, acceptable,” Almaguer said. “My house shakes with little rockets and it sounds like the rocket is coming right over my head. … You need to do a complete and comprehensive assessment of this project.”

The FAA is scheduled to host another public hearing Wednesday at 6 p.m. EST. Registration for attendance can be found here. Follow @FlyingMagazine and @TheAfrikid on Twitter for live updates as the hearings are held.

Jeremy attained his bachelor's in journalism and emerging media from Kennesaw State University. He also served in the Georgia Air National Guard as a C-130 Crew Chief for six years, holding an associate in aircraft maintenance technology.

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