The FAA held its second virtual public hearing on the SpaceX Starship and Super Heavy projects Wednesday night, once again drawing attention from around the country, with more than 100 attendees sharing their comments on the proposed operations at Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas.
The hearing centered on SpaceX’s Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA), an overview of the potential environmental impacts of the operations proposed by SpaceX. The private space company owned by Elon Musk is developing its Starship and Super Heavy projects, which are designed to make orbital and suborbital launches from Boca Chica.
A project of this magnitude will require several pieces of infrastructure. SpaceX has proposed launch pads, a liquid natural gas pretreatment system, a 250-megawatt power plant, and several other facilities to be built on-site. Being next to the coast, SpaceX also plans to build multiple off-shore landing platforms.
Wednesday’s hearing was extremely similar to the previous one held Monday and included commenters who spoke at both meetings.
The hearings consisted of a presentation of the Draft PEA; once in English and again in Spanish. However, the presentation documents themselves were not translated for Spanish-speaking viewers.
“The Spanish translation and outreach by the FAA is a joke and, in fact, is actually a violation of the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” said local resident Bekah Hinojosa. “A Spanish notice was only sent out three days before the hearing, with only one Spanish email. The FAA did virtually no public outreach.”
Multiple local residents, who predominantly speak Spanish, previously voiced their concerns before and during Monday’s hearing. No apparent changes were made for the subsequent hearing on Wednesday.
While many attendees did not live in Boca Chica, or even in the state of Texas, support for SpaceX operations was plentiful.
“Although I’m not a resident of the area, I feel, as an American and as a human, I have the right to support and urge the FAA to grant SpaceX appropriate approvals to continue development over the launches,” Taylor Dihel said.
Local residents were seemingly split on support for SpaceX’s planned operations.
“Another of the fondest memories of my youth is the night of July 20, 1969, when I saw, on our black-and-white vacuum-tube television, men walk on the moon,” said local resident Ludivina Garcia. “It is beyond my wildest imagination, that 52 years later, the company founded by a man, not yet born, would choose the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to build a gateway to Mars.”
Claudia Hernandez, a local resident, responded to preceding comments from non-residents.
“They do not know the community. They don’t know our language, and for them to think that money, that Elon Musk and SpaceX is bringing, will benefit us, is mistaken,” Hernandez said.
Among the attendees in opposition to the Draft PEA, there were many mentions of “environmental racism.”
“The reality is, this will be historical in the making. But what’s historical in the making is that this is the legacy of environmental racism … the people are being exploited. Gentrification is continuing,” said local resident Melissa Martinez.
Some comments even became racially charged, as Brownsville resident Paul Mamakos shared his opinion on the Boca Chica site, referring to SpaceX operations as a “space hoax.”
“I don’t want a billionaire to come down here and hire a bunch of Mexicans because they’re just polluting the local area,” he said. “Instead of building giant exploding green silos, how about we fix the problems right here in Texas, is what I’m saying.”
Michael Paul, who travels to the area, accused local residents of neglecting the beaches that would be intermittently closed during SpaceX launches.
“There is no such thing as environmental racism. That is a manufactured wokeism. If locals really cared about the beach, they would clean it up,” Paul said. “Locals really don’t care about their beach. They just want it because they’re petulant and childish. They want what they want, without any consequences.”
Much like Monday’s hearing, there were multiple mentions of the human race becoming a “multiplanetary” species. Ian Winiarski, 17, gave an explanation of what type of fuel would be used for the Starship project and its carbon emissions.
“There is no other significant vehicle that has been proposed yet that has significant funding that could be used to effectively colonize Mars,” Winiarski said.
Throughout both hearings, SpaceX supporters focused heavily on the potential economic benefits Starship and Super Heavy may have on Boca Chica, while the opposition harped on the seemingly lax nature of the FAA in conducting a proper environmental study. Many called for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be conducted in place of the PEA.
It is not certain whether or not the FAA will conduct an EIS or if they will approve SpaceX’s draft PEA.