New Hurdle for Elon Musk: His Texas Neighbors

Locals living near his business sites are raising a stink about massive construction projects
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2023 4:35 PM CDT
New Hurdle for Elon Musk: His Texas Neighbors
   (Getty Images / Joe Belanger)

It's a snapshot of a challenging crossroads in the ambitious (non-Twitter) business plans of Elon Musk. The Washington Post reports that residents of rural Bastrop County, Texas, home to growing facilities for both SpaceX and the Boring Co., are concerned about the impact on the environment. And this in addition to a lawsuit Reuters reports was filed by conservation groups against the Federal Aviation Administration for green-lighting SpaceX's rocket operations in Boca Chica, Texas, allegedly without a comprehensive review of its environmental impact. The suit was partly due to the April 2023 maiden flight of SpaceX's Starship, which the New York Times reported scattered sand and debris miles from the launchpad in Boca Chica, Texas—which borders a national wildlife refuge.

The stakes are high for Musk. Starship is a crucial component of SpaceX's commercial launch business and is vital to Musk's vision of starting human colonies on Mars. While the Boca Chica site is mostly meant for testing, with Starship operations set to shift to Florida, a protracted legal battle or a ruling against the FAA could significantly delay Musk's rapid development plans. In Bastrop County, resident Chap Ambrose tells the Post that he has "no faith" that the billionaire's leadership team "values the environment." Ambrose is the leader of a collection of residents who are urging companies connected to Musk to take time to consider the impact of heavy construction, wastewater, etc. Ambrose, a computer programmer, says he remains a Musk supporter, but wants "him to do better here and be a good neighbor."

Ambrose and other Texans aren't the only ones concerned. Reuters notes that SpaceX's Launch Complex at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is under environmental review. Concerns have been raised there over a potential Starship explosion damaging infrastructure. Additionally, sites like the Vandenberg Spaceport in California and a facility in Virginia have limitations or need additional environmental reviews. Where SpaceX is concerned, however, congressional intervention could help. If its mission were considered a national priority, Congress could sidestep calls for environmental reviews—especially given NASA's ambitious moon landing deadline by 2026. (The Boring Co. has raised concerns across the country that it is "ghosting" cities prepared to prepared to permit tunneling for the company.)

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