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Space Government

Proposed SpaceX Spaceport Passes Its Final Federal Environmental Review 40

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-the-green-light dept.
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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Proposed SpaceX Spaceport Passes Its Final Federal Environmental Review

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  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Friday May 30, 2014 @07:18AM (#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....

    • by Anonymous Coward

      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..."

    • by Zobeid (314469) on Friday May 30, 2014 @07:28AM (#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.

  • by schwit1 (797399) on Friday May 30, 2014 @07:21AM (#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.

    • by hey! (33014)

      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 projec

      • by dcw3 (649211)

        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 a

        • by hey! (33014)

          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

  • "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.
    • by rubycodez (864176)

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

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday May 30, 2014 @07:24AM (#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.
    • 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.
      • by TWX (665546)
        I found your reference to wildlife and airports juxtaposed against the animal referenced in your signature to be particularly amusing...
  • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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

      • by dcw3 (649211)

        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.

    • by TWX (665546)

      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 t

  • 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.?

    • by EmperorArthur (1113223) on Friday May 30, 2014 @08:58AM (#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.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        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.

      • 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 so

  • by bradley13 (1118935) on Friday May 30, 2014 @09:18AM (#47128487) Homepage

    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: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 a

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