by Douglas Messier
The SaveRGV environmental group has filed a lawsuit alleging that repeated closures of an 8-mile stretch of beach adjacent to SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility violates Texas’ constitutionally guaranteed right to access public beaches.
“This isn’t rocket science. In Texas, access to public beaches cannot be restricted,” said Jim Chapman, a board member of SaveRGV.
The lawsuit said 2013 amendment to the Texas Open Beaches Act allowed the closing of public beaches for spaceflight activities. Cameron County, where SpaceX’s Boca Chica test facility is located, has allowed the company to close the beach and the highway leading to it for up to 450 hours annually to conduct testing activities.
SaveRGV wants the court to invalidate the portions of the Texas Open Beaches Act that allow for beach closings for spaceflight activities. It also wants the court to invalidate Cameron County’s order allowing a judge to close the beach and the highway that leads to it.
The lawsuit was filed in Cameron County. Defendants named in the lawsuit include Cameron County, Texas General Land Office, and George P. Bush in his official capacity as the Texas Land Commissioner. SaveRGV is being represented by the public interest environmental firm of Perales, Allmon & Ice.
SaveRGV and other local environmental groups have been critical of SpaceX’s operations at Boca Chica, which adjoins sensitive wetlands that support a variety of species. They have alleged that SpaceX has exceeded its annual cap on closing the beach and highway and damaged the wetlands.
SpaceX is seeking to expand its operations at Boca Chica to allow for launches of the company’s Super Heavy/Starship system. The Federal Aviation Administration recently extended the comments period on the project’s preliminary environmental assessment to Nov. 1.