SpaceX Starbase Expansion Plan Will Harm Endangered Species: FWS

A newly hatched chick stands next to one of its parents, Monty or Rose, at Montrose Beach on July 10, 2021.

John J. Kim | Tribune News Service | beautiful pictures

SpaceX must take steps to monitor and minimize its impact on endangered species and their habitats in order to gain approval for the testing and commercial launch of the spacecraft. Spaceship According to documents from the US Fish and Wildlife Service obtained by CNBC.

Documents released by the federal agency as required by the Freedom of Information Act show a recent decline in an endangered bird, the tapir, linked to SpaceX operations at the South Texas facility.

The documents also reveal that SpaceX is currently at least reducing the amount of energy it intends to generate at a utility-sized natural gas electric Factory on the 47.4-acre launch pad there.

The company did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the documents.

What is at stake?

Ultimately, the Federal Aviation Administration must decide and be responsible for the final approvals and oversight of SpaceX in Texas.

The company’s ability to expand its business and conduct launches beyond its existing Falcon rockets depends on this FAA approval. So does the fate of SpaceX’s business engagements in Texas.

In February, the CEO Elon Musk says that his reusable rocket and satellite internet company could move the Starship Super Heavy launch to Florida, and turn the Boca Chica spaceport into more R&D campuses, if regulatory hurdles are in the way. Texas is insurmountable.

SpaceX submitted the most recent known proposal for the Boca Chica facility to the FAA in September 2021. At the time, the company said it wanted to build a new launch pad, new landing pad, and power plant. , natural gas and water processing facilities. infrastructure, including flood systems and retention ponds used to cool the launch pad there.

SpaceX is applying for a license and/or vehicle operator license from the FAA that will allow it to build new facilities and conduct its larger Starship rocket launches near the cities of Brownsville and South Padre Island, Texas. The facility is located on a small piece of land surrounded by wildlife refuges.

Before issuing these permits and licenses, the FAA reviews research from a number of other federal and state agencies and local environmental experts.

Part of the FAA’s process includes consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that the agency won’t be in violation of the Endangered Species Act if it allows SpaceX to continue with the proposed operation. mine.

The impact of wildlife

FWS identified – and written in a document called a draft biological opinion and conference (BCO) – that if SpaceX proceeds with the proposal it submitted to the FAA, it will affect several species protected under the Endangered Species Act, as well as hundreds acres in their critical habitat, although this activity would not wipe out the species completely.

The company’s greatest concern is its expected impact on mating, migration, health and habitat of the plover plover, red knot, jaguarundi and ocelot populations. Disruption and harm can be caused by everything from frequent vehicular traffic, to noise, heat, explosions and habitat fragmentation due to construction, missile testing and launches.

Several species of sea turtles were also of interest, but the FWS turned over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for expertise in marine life. One of the known turtles is the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, which nests on the beaches of Boca Chica. It is a critically endangered sea turtle in the world.

The draft comments warn that approximately 903.65 acres of significant pipeline habitable land that surrounds the facility and 446.27 acres therein will be lost to the direct impact of the proposed SpaceX operation under the proposed proposal. submitted to the FAA.

Among its recommendations and requirements, FWS wants SpaceX to carefully monitor affected animal populations, limit construction and launch activities to specific seasons or times of day and night, at the same time use shuttle bus to reduce the traffic of workers on the site.

The agency is also encouraging further research to understand the potential impacts on the monarch butterfly, which is currently being considered a threatened or endangered species in the United States. .

Overall, the opinion of the FWS could be good news for SpaceX.

Jared Margolis, senior attorney for the Center for Biodiversity, who read a copy of the draft BCO, said the agency is demanding little in the way of SpaceX’s spending, conservation and other commitments.

He said, “It appears that the Fish and Wildlife Service is backtracking to figure out how to allow more of what was used to be very detrimental to the Boca Chica site in terms of the impact on the wildlife. wild animals.”

Margolis said the FWS did not ask SpaceX to make major or well-defined commitments on conservation issues. He pointed out the FWS asks SpaceX to donate a meager $5,000 to an ocelot conservation group each year.

He also said that too many of the agency’s requests are recommendations and cannot be enforced under the terms and conditions of the FAA’s final license.

“This is a company with very deep pockets, the least they can do is to address these harms in a meaningful way,” added Margolis.

CNBC reached out to the US Fish and Wildlife Service press office but officials were not immediately available to comment on Margolis’ assertions.

Read the full BCO draft here:

Source link


News7F: Update the world's latest breaking news online of the day, breaking news, politics, society today, international mainstream news .Updated news 24/7: Entertainment, the World everyday world. Hot news, images, video clips that are updated quickly and reliably

Related Articles

Back to top button