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Proposed SpaceX Spaceport Passes Its Final Federal Environmental Review

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the getting-the-green-light dept.

Space 40

An anonymous reader writes "The proposed SpaceX spaceport in Brownsville, Texas, has passed its final federal environmental review. 'The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which had raised concerns about possible impact on habitat for some endangered species, ultimately concluded that "the project is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed or proposed to be listed species nor adversely modify piping plover critical habitat". But wildlife officials don't expect the project to be harmless: Two individual cats, either from the endangered ocelot or jaguarondi species, could be lost as a result of the project in spite of efforts to avoid just that with measures such as posting warning signs along the road leading to the launch site. And federal wildlife officials also anticipate that more than 7 miles of beachfront used by nesting sea turtles could be disturbed by security patrols, though driving is already permitted on the beach.'"

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Wow, two whole cats. (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 months ago | (#47127713)

Does it bother the Feds that those cats are going to die of old age one of these days anyway?

If there are only two affected cats in the area, they're already effectively extinct in that place....

Re:Wow, two whole cats. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47127755)

At least we won't lose the literate cats... they're posting warning signs:

"...could be lost as a result of the project in spite of efforts to avoid just that with measures such as posting warning signs along the road..."

Re:Wow, two whole cats. (4, Informative)

Zobeid (314469) | about 2 months ago | (#47127757)

Texas at one time had six native cat species: bobcat, mountain lion, ocelot, jaguar, jaguarundi and margay. Jaguars and margays have been gone for about a hundred years, and now ocelots and jaguarundis are rare, with just a few hanging on at the southern tip of the state. We'd really prefer not to give them up.

Re:Wow, two whole cats. (3, Informative)

rubycodez (864176) | about 2 months ago | (#47127779)

get real, you've just given the proof that groups of both these two individual cats exist elsewhere. these individual cats can't breed, they don't matter.

Re:Wow, two whole cats. (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47128457)

Texas at one time had six native cat species [...] We'd really prefer not to give them up.

Guess you shouldn'ta shat all over your state thar, then. Yawl got many owl whales down thar?

Oh noes, flamebait (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47128737)

Texas is perpetually in the rearguard in any action to protect our climate, now you want to protect a couple of cats that are going to die out anyway? Relocate those motherfuckers.

On a more important note... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47127719)

...the intrusion of the religion of capitalism into space exploration could ruin humanity's chances of maintaining civilisation.

But trying to tell most of the US that would be like trying to tell most of the US that the Gospels were works of fiction.

Re:On a more important note... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47128299)

Why is the religion of space any better?

Re:On a more important note... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47144077)

This is more the religion of our lord and saviour, the Holiest of Holies, Elon, Saint of Musk

What has happened in Florida? (4, Insightful)

schwit1 (797399) | about 2 months ago | (#47127731)

The government established a wildlife preserve surrounding the Kennedy Space Center and the wildlife has been flourishing there for more than a half century. Because a launchpad is used so infrequently (12 times a year is what SpaceX proposes for Brownsville), it inflicts very little harm on the environment.

What has happened in Florida? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47127791)

"little" harm is still harm which grows exponentially as time goes on.

i'm not disagreeing with you, just the words you chose to use

Re:What has happened in Florida? (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 2 months ago | (#47128523)

"little" harm is still harm which grows exponentially as time goes on.

How do you figure?

Launches are few and far between (sadly). Otherwise, the wildlife lives pretty much undisturbed. Where do you get any sort of cumulative effect from that?

Actually, the launch center is likely beneficial to the wildlife: without the launch center, there probably wouldn't be a reserve to begin with.

Re:What has happened in Florida? (4, Funny)

Richy_T (111409) | about 2 months ago | (#47128649)

Not just cumulative, exponential. In a few years, the site will be destroying the earth, in a few decades, most of the known universe.

Re:What has happened in Florida? (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 months ago | (#47129143)

A few decades after that the edge of the mass of humanity exceeds the speed of light...all that proves is you don't understand exponential growth _models_.

Re:What has happened in Florida? (2)

hey! (33014) | about 2 months ago | (#47127973)

You're missing the point. The *specifics* of the site, particularly the specific *species* it hosts, makes a difference. That's why you check. Sometimes its not *what* you are building that's the problem, but where you're proposing to build it.

The outline at least of the process is reasonable. Before you start bulldozing, you check to see what it is you'll be demolishing and what the impact on your neighbors will be.

We can argue about what should be sufficient to red light a project, but since the project got the green light the project's owners don't have anything to complain about. Like breaking ground (which comes later), passing the environmental impact review is an important but routine milestone in a project.

Re:What has happened in Florida? (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about 2 months ago | (#47128703)

Disclaimer: My comment/question isn't based upon any scientific background, so feel free to throw mud on my theory.

So, if a species is only found in a tiny area, is that species really viable? If their survival is that fragile, that they can't survive outside of that area, is there value in making the effort to helping them, or are they more likely to go extinct anyway?

We often hear of new species being discovered, so with 7+ billion people on the planet, I wonder how they were looked over, or if people are playing fast and loose with the term species?

Re:What has happened in Florida? (2)

hey! (33014) | about 2 months ago | (#47129195)

Disclaimer: My comment/question isn't based upon any scientific background, so feel free to throw mud on my theory.

So, if a species is only found in a tiny area, is that species really viable?

Answer: often it is. Many species show signs of having done through a "genetic bottleneck" and subsequently grew to considerable populations. In the 1890s, there were fewer than 30 northern elephant seals in the whole world. Today there are hundreds of thousands, but back then a single project could have wiped them out. All the cheetahs in the world today descended from only seven individuals that lived ten thousand years ago. But they subsequently went on to be a highly successful species, with a range that covered all of Africa and Central and South Asia. Even humanity went through a population bottleneck 100,000 years ago. We could well have gone extinct.

If their survival is that fragile, that they can't survive outside of that area, is there value in making the effort to helping them, or are they more likely to go extinct anyway?

You're mixing up different questions: whether there is value in making efforts to help endangered species (which is an philosophical question, not a scientific one), or whether they're likely to go extinct "anyway" (which is an exercise in prognostication).

"Anyway" is a loaded term. Extinction *is* a natural process, but we are living in a period extinction rates unprecedented in the lifetime of our species. That means that the vast majority of species facing extinction face it as the result of human activities. Where merely tweaking an activity can save a species from extinction, say placing a facility *here* rather than *there*, that doesn't seem like too much to ask.

And taking steps to protect endangered species works. Not 100% of the time, of course, but enough of the time to show it's worth giving it a try. I'm old enough to remember when seeing a bald eagle was a once-in-a-lifetime event. When I was a small kid, there were maybe a thousand bald eagles in all the contiguous 48 states. Today there are about ten thousand nesting pairs. As a result of conservation efforts, most conservation efforts are no longer needed. It's still a thrill for me to see a nesting pair soaring over some pond, but it's actually a very commonplace sight these days. I suppose if you don't remember a time when seeing an eagle was a rare even than seeing a wild bison is today, you might not realize how successful a conservation program can be.

Cats cannot read (1)

Rodot (3631993) | about 2 months ago | (#47127739)

"Two individual cats, either from the endangered ocelot or jaguarondi species, could be lost as a result of the project in spite of efforts to avoid just that with measures such as posting warning signs along the road leading to the launch site." Cats cannot read and will go to the launch site anyway.

Re:Cats cannot read (2)

rubycodez (864176) | about 2 months ago | (#47127787)

no worries, we'll have a reader posted at each sign so the cats just have to listen. cats have very good hearing.

Playing Devil's advocate (2)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 months ago | (#47127749)

I've seldom seen such large expanses of unspoiled habitat than at Cape Canaveral. The "safety areas" between launch and observation areas are so huge that most of it becomes some of the best protected environment you can have.

Re:Playing Devil's advocate (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 2 months ago | (#47127889)

Same things happens around airports here. Lots of open land free of humans, and patrols around the perimeter to ensure humans stay away. Of course the surroundings of a runway won't be favourable to all kinds of wildlife, but in general you'll see a lot of flora and fauna doing well there.

Re:Playing Devil's advocate (1)

TWX (665546) | about 2 months ago | (#47129499)

I found your reference to wildlife and airports juxtaposed against the animal referenced in your signature to be particularly amusing...

And so Putin approves $50 billion for Sochi (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 months ago | (#47127827)

These regulations, regardless of how useful for their intended purpose, are there to allow the government to get in the way of things. Follow the money and see who donates and who does not.

But in this case, it was very high profile, so it got approved lest some other nation take the lead.

It's an interesting case study on memes - their surface idea vs. what they really do.

Re:And so Putin approves $50 billion for Sochi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47127877)

So what is SpaceX really up to? What plan do they have?

Re:And so Putin approves $50 billion for Sochi (2)

Talderas (1212466) | about 2 months ago | (#47127929)

The same plan as every night Pinky. Take over the world.

Re:And so Putin approves $50 billion for Sochi (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 months ago | (#47127993)

Yes, Government DOES get in the way of things, but whether or not government is working might be able to be gauged by WHOSE BEHALF it is getting in the way.

Humans formed governments for a good reason, and that's because that it was too easy for the stronger guy to take food from the smaller guy, and as a group we thought that probably wasn't always a good thing.

If the government doesn't protect the weaker person then maybe it's more destructive than good, which is where U.S. society seems to be right now.

Re:And so Putin approves $50 billion for Sochi (1)

garyebickford (222422) | about 2 months ago | (#47128687)

In general, the "weaker persons" in the US are in better shape than at any time in previous history - of the world. What has changed are the benchmark and our perceptions. Consider that the poverty level income in the US - _before_ any benefits such as food stamps, housing subsidies, earned income tax credit, ll the things that become available when your income is that low - puts you in the top 5% of incomes worldwide. At no time in previous history have the great majority of people lived so long, eaten so well, or had such healthy lives.

It's true that the US standard of living is presently stagnating relative to the rest of the world although not in real terms - our true standard of living today is better than it was 10 or 15 years ago. In large part this is due to the success of US, and later European, efforts since WWII to improve the lives of people in "third world" nations. Now (inevitably, with free markets) the whole world is catching up, and in some cases surpassing us as all those sources of cheap labor and resources become middle class as well and global demand begins to ramp up.

Re:And so Putin approves $50 billion for Sochi (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about 2 months ago | (#47128821)

We're both getting off-topic here, but in response to your last sentence, I think the current debate should be in regard to how much protection/assistance the weak need from the government. While, it's certainly reducing in areas...unemployment, food stamps, etc., the U.S. still provides a huge amount of support to the poor, elderly, and disabled. Many argue that it's not enough, and others that it's too much...I'm somewhere in the middle.

Re:And so Putin approves $50 billion for Sochi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47129101)

You are a fucking cunt. All you achieve by proclaiming everyone to be corrupt is to encourage people to become corrupt. Fucking die.

Re:And so Putin approves $50 billion for Sochi (1)

TWX (665546) | about 2 months ago | (#47129653)

These regulations, regardless of how useful for their intended purpose, are there to allow the government to get in the way of things. Follow the money and see who donates and who does not.

But in this case, it was very high profile, so it got approved lest some other nation take the lead.

Ah, but in the case of SpaceX, you're seeing a company that is achieving a real and actual goal that the government has, and success tends to beget latitude. To make a high school analogy, those kids that are at the top of the class academically tend to catch a lot of breaks or get a lot of leeway in the gray-area of the rules. Things like being able to mouth-off just a bit in class assuming that their contribution is topical and demonstrates understanding of the material. Things like upsetting a staff member but finding that the school administration lets it slide with no more than a verbal warning. Things like having occasional absenteeism ignored or excused, or being allowed to do things with school materials that might get kids that aren't performing well academically into trouble.

SpaceX is getting results, and they don't seem to be making a lot of enemies of large groups of people in the process. It's certainly possible that if they picked an area that was already kind of messed up (lack of wildlife, beaches that are already abused, etc) that any extra damage that they might cause is overridden by their likelihood of achieving more results compared to that damage.

Musk himself is a bit of a loudmouth, but again, he achieves results. He's got electric cars actually into production and on the roads. He's got spacecraft into orbit and successfully returned. He seems to play for the longer term, and that might even bring SolarCity into profitability as he's willing to absorb the losses for quite some time while the company establishes itself. He seems to have stepped into a bit of a Howard Hughes position, hopefully he'll continue to get good results.

Why do they need their own spaceport? (1)

jfruh (300774) | about 2 months ago | (#47128111)

Out of curiosity, what do they need their own spaceport for, especially if (as an earlier poster notes) they only intend to launch about once a month? Are there constraints on the use of launchpads at Cape Canaveral, where there's already been a great deal of investment in building launchpads, support structures, etc.?

Re:Why do they need their own spaceport? (4, Interesting)

EmperorArthur (1113223) | about 2 months ago | (#47128335)

Out of curiosity, what do they need their own spaceport for, especially if (as an earlier poster notes) they only intend to launch about once a month? Are there constraints on the use of launchpads at Cape Canaveral, where there's already been a great deal of investment in building launchpads, support structures, etc.?

That's a part of it. Without looking into the details, Cape Canaveral doesn't seem to want to deal with more than one rocket launch within a week of each other. Wile the US Gov launches from Vandenberg, they also launch from Cape Canaveral. Plus the Orbital Sciences launches, other commercial launches, and everything else that happens there. The current story is often launch attempt one aborts, launch attempt two has a delay to make sure they fixed the problem, then it's a several week delay because Cape Canaveral had another launch planned.

The other reason is the idea of recovering the Falcon 9 rocket. It could be easier to launch from Texas and recover at Cape Canaveral.

Re:Why do they need their own spaceport? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47128867)

the recovery part makes sense. the rocket starts it's gravity turn, and falls at canaveral, where it lights off it's engines and does a braking burn to land safely.

Re:Why do they need their own spaceport? (1)

garyebickford (222422) | about 2 months ago | (#47129149)

The other reason is the idea of recovering the Falcon 9 rocket. It could be easier to launch from Texas and recover at Cape Canaveral.

I like this - I hadn't thought of that before. This would be a simple way to recover the first and perhaps second stages. Instead of having to either direct the rocket bodies 100 miles back to the launch site, or have it 'land' 300 miles out in the Atlantic they could follow a partially ballistic path outside most of the atmosphere and descend to Canaveral, ready for shipping back to Texas.

However I'm not sure about the viability of the launch path. The SpaceX launch facility is in Boca Chica Texas, way south, close to the Mexican border. Cape Canaveral might be too far north to allow the rocket bodies to land at Canaveral for launches to equatorial orbits - although The ISS path varies to as far north as southern Canada, so that would work given the right timing.

However, Puerto Rico has a spare former military airbase that they are working to turn into a spaceport. So that could provide an alternative for those launches, if it's not too far downrange - it looks about twice as far as Canaveral.

TFA: But several steps remain... (4, Interesting)

bradley13 (1118935) | about 2 months ago | (#47128487)

Let us not forget the primary purpose of federal environmental impact studies: They take years, employ dozens of bureaucrats, and somehow, there's always one more step, one more required study. The "Iron Law of Bureaucracy" has long since taken over...

Re:TFA: But several steps remain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47129105)

Yes, let's just let billionaires launch their firecrackers wherever they feel like it.

Grow up.

Re:TFA: But several steps remain... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47129905)

Also true of local governments. Our new runway here in Seattle cost more in "environmental" studies and related changes than all other costs combined. Also, environmental groups wouldn't allow the project to finish until very close to twenty years. The original cost estimates were just over $200 million, but after the environmental groups sued dozens of times and required expensive changes that had no purpose, it ended-up costing over a billion. Environmental groups were against it because it will save an estimated two billion dollars of fuel in 25 years! They always fight hard to damage the environment so they can get more power. In this case, they stole $800 million from the residents of WA, and caused almost 15 years worth of delays for passengers and 15 years of increased fuel due to planes circling because they couldn't land.

The airport is now trying to add more efficient air conditioning so that planes don't have to run their APUs. The Sierra Club is fighting this with everything they have. We get hate calls from them nearly every day because we're trying to help the environment.

Re:TFA: But several steps remain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47133299)

One solutions but it doesn't always work so well in practice is to propose a purposely bad for the environment solution. Then work with this organisations to do what you where already going to do but now your paying them for helping you. Also, bonus points if you get various these economic-terrorist to fight each other in the court of public opinion. But the unfortunate truth is that you basically just paying the Dane-geld and will all know how that turned out.

Re:TFA: But several steps remain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47132057)

The system of laws, rules and regulations has become complex enough to be sentient itself. This is the real output of humanity, intangible machine men made of ideas. Humans are just synapses working for "The Man".

Space x not Texas. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47184657)

Space X should use New Mexico which Virgin is or Mojave. In fact Space X could help a blue state that the republicans put down by doing it in the California Desert.

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