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SpaceX #9: This FAA action could be the most important environmental legal event in decades
This Supreme Court Can't be allowed the opportunity to gut NEPA
I’VE MOVED LINKS TO PREVIOUS ENTRIES TO THE BOTTOM
I have tried my hardest up to this point to be politically neutral. I have to take a brief time out from that policy, and I’ll explain why. I’m neither Democrat nor Republican. I obviously believe in a fair and equal, robust regulatory state, especially when it comes to environmental topics. I also am concerned about the disgusting concentration of wealth in this country. I think maybe an employee owned corporation type model, which still allows for innovation and market pricing of goods is an ideal to strive towards. But that’s neither here nor there.
We gotta talk about the Supreme Court though
Chapter 9: Kavanaugh Sharpens the Blade
I keep getting asked by people “Why do you care so much about this?” I hope I’ve made it clear up to this point that the level of sloppiness and lack of professionalism displayed by so-called Environmental Specialists at FAA and SpaceX is insulting to me personally. I take pride in my work, and would be embarrassed to sign my name to this dreck.
It’s also symptomatic of Monopoly power. SpaceX has done a tremendous job up to this point developing a space program, I won’t ever deny that. Forget unit economics of landing rockets or gimmicks or Elon Musk antics, they are now *the* Big Fish in the US space program. Right or wrong, they have become a necessity for NASA. This leads towards a troubling dynamic you see with monopolies or near-monopolies. Doubly so if they rely on government money.
SpaceX owns the FAA. This Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) is all the evidence you need. Construction of a large, 250 MW power plant and a gas plant alone is clearly not an insignificant environmental impact. The PEA process is to expedite minor changes to a full EIA. Let’s think about it this way:
A full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) under NEPA is akin to a building permit. If you had a plot of land you wanted to develop into a warehouse, you’d get architectural plans drawn, a site survey completed and you’d send in the building permit application for the county to review. This can take months, as the county civil engineer has to review as does the fire marshal and the assessor and so on. Once plans are approved you can start building and the building permit remains in force once occupancy has been granted.
The PEA process is like a minor permit. Say I wanted to install a utility boiler or pour a few hundred square feet of concrete or dig out a sump. Those activities might require filing paperwork with the building permits office, they might require an inspection (like the boiler example). But the timing and difficulty of this task is significantly lower, because the actions don’t change the basis upon which the original occupancy permit was issued.
Now let’s say I’ve got a permitted warehouse and I want to add some Methanol storage tanks, a gun range, a Ferris wheel and oh yeah build out the existing warehouse by doubling the square footage. I’d need another full Building permit, and this one would probably require way much more work than the original one. I couldn’t just submit a form without any plans drawn to the county and demand they stamp off on it in 2 weeks. That would be absurd!
The full 2014 EIA for SpaceX Boca Chica is still in force, when they were authorized to launch a handful of Falcon 9 rockets per year.
Here’s a generic flow chart of this process:
They’ve modified it using the PEA process 8 times, and already the operation is significantly different than the original scope. Certainly enough of these incremental changes would eventually look nothing like the original proposal, and I think we’re already at that point. Determining which straw breaks the camel’s back is a sticky situation, but this isn’t a straw, it’s a 2 ton load of bricks. It’s plainly absurd and highly illegal, as I’ve repeatedly demonstrated in the prior 8 posts.
Now, as to “why this matters,” let’s assume that FAA does SpaceX’s bidding and grants the Final PEA.
Lawsuits will be filed
Sure, Greenpeace isn’t saying anything about SpaceX. They’re probably too busy defacing global cultural heritage sites for social media clicks.
Elon Musk is tight with Sierra Club. As a donor, he called the organization’s executive director in 2018 to solicit help to distract from his GOP political spending. They’re oddly silent on SpaceX as well.
Both organizations have loudly decried oil and gas development in South Texas, particularly LNG terminals and pipeline construction mere miles away from SpaceX’s Boca Chica site. But a full gas fractionation plant, an LNG conversion facility, at least one pipeline and a 250 megawatt power plant in a wildlife sanctuary? Silence. And that’s all in addition to the rockets.
But lawsuits will be filed. NEPA implementation is almost entirely lawsuit driven. Defenders of Wildlife have said they will attempt to stop this action, and I and others will do whatever we can to stop this.
But once Elon Musk’s bought and paid for FAA gives the rubber stamp, it’s in the court’s hand.
Trump’s judicial system and NEPA
In 4 years, Donald Trump appointed 3 Supreme Court Justices, along with 54 Appeal and 174 District Court Judges into the federal system. The court system in the US is stacked to the gills with federalist society acolytes.
The burden of proof to overturn this NEPA action is on the plaintiff. That’s a daunting task as is. This case is so patently absurd that it may very well get appealed up to the supreme court.
If you think this current Supreme court, which is stacked to the gills with pro big business judges with a worrying track record in gutting the regulatory state isn't chomping at the bit to eviscerate NEPA, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.
On the plus side, the Environmental Review process for constructing that bridge will be easy peasy.
Be well and love one another, ESGH
LINKS TO PREVIOUS ENTRIES:
CLICK HERE FOR INTRO - Background
CLICK HERE FOR PART 1 - NEPA Primer / FAA has no business permitting oil and gas facilities
CLICK HERE FOR PART 2 - Elon Musk’s Natural Gas Treatment Plant
CLICK HERE FOR PART 3 - SpaceX is building a pipeline and doesn’t feel the need to mention it
CLICK HERE FOR PART 4 - SpaceX dreams of drilling for a sh*tload of oil
CLICK HERE FOR PART 5 - A discussion on the hugeness of the project, a parade of tankers and a reality check about the Oil and Gas biz
CLICK HERE FOR PART 6 - The Facility would be a Major Source of Pollution under the PSD Rules in the Clean Air Act, which by statutory definition would exclude it from fast track approval under NEPA
CLICK HERE FOR PART 7 - The GHG and CO2 emissions are plainly nonsense
CLICK HERE FOR PART 8 - ESG Hound drops the gauntlet and explains why this is a massive fraud happening in plain sight.