‘Cease issuing any further closure orders’: Non-profit cites SpaceX agreement violations to Cameron County

Local News

FILE: Space enthusiasts look at a prototype of SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft at the company’s Texas launch facility on September 28, 2019 in Boca Chica near Brownsville, Texas. The Starship spacecraft is a massive vehicle meant to take people to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. (Photo by Loren Elliott/Getty Images)

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) – A local non-profit organization is calling on Cameron County to stop future Highway 4 road closures for SpaceX activities for the rest of the year, saying that they have violated agreements made in 2013 and 2014.  

Save RGV, a local non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the preservation of the remaining natural areas of eastern Cameron County wrote a letter to county officials to point out “multiple and egregious violations” to the 2013 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the county and the Texas General Land Office and the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 2014 Record of Decision (ROD).  

The letter was sent to Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino and District Attorney Luis V. Saenz. CC’d were members of the Office of the General Counsel, Texas parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

The MOA details the conditions by which the public can be barred from using the road to access Boca Chica Beach and surrounding state parks and wildlife refuges for SpaceX testing activity.  

The letter sent on June 3 says among the violations are road closures without proper notice, reducing and extending road closure time without proper state and county authorization, lack of a “beach mitigation plan” during closures, violation of the Texas Open Beaches Act of 1959, and exceeding the allotted number of hours for spaceflight cycles by the FAA’s 2014 ROD without any amendments, modifications or changes to the document.  

The ROD limits the number of spaceflight cycles to 12 per year and the closure hours to 180 per year. 

“There appears to be no attempt whatsoever by either Cameron County or the GLO to abide by or enforce the closure limits,” the letter says.  

The letter does note a reevaluation of those hours, however, goes on to say that those hours have been exceeded as well and are not reflected in the agreements.  

“While not reflected in any revision of the MOA, the FAA did issue a Written Reevaluation on 12-2-20 that increased the allowed closure hours to 300 hours per year. The attached closure log, documented by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Coastal Bend Bay & Estuary Program, not only shows that closures have already exceeded 300 hours in less than 5 months, but that the actual closure hours (385) have exceeded the County-published closure announcements by 50 hours (335),” states the letter. 

With these points in mind, the non-profit is asking the county not to issue any more closures for the remainder of the year.  

“Since SpaceX has already exceeded its FAA-authorized 300 hour closure limit for 2021, we ask Cameron County and the GLO to cease issuing any further closure orders for the rest of this year. To do otherwise is to continue to knowingly and willingly violate the Memorandum of Agreement.” 

Response from the county will be added once it become available.  

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More Throwback Thursday