Author Topic: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval  (Read 93364 times)

Offline tenkendojo

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #60 on: 05/23/2023 04:06 pm »
https://twitter.com/derekdotspace/status/1660772985664417797

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Reading through the motion filed and there are some interesting points, but also one of our first concrete looks at some of the finances behind Starship. A quote directly from SpaceX on the cost of the launch facility at Boca Chica as "Over 3 Billion". (Page 12/16)

IANAL, does the amount spent have any *legal* significance to the case? For example, do the relevant environmental laws/regulations require the balancing of any environmental and economic impact?

That line is supporting the argument that SpaceX meets Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 24(a)’s interest requirement for joining FAA as co-defendant.

Specifically, Rule 24(a) stipulates that "the court must permit anyone to intervene who claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.
« Last Edit: 05/23/2023 04:07 pm by tenkendojo »

Offline cuddihy

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #61 on: 05/23/2023 05:20 pm »
Jut want to point out why it's important that SpaceX join the action on the side of the FAA (vs. FAA alone). In an ideal world, Federal Departments would always vigorously defend their authority to properly resolve issues at the lowest level or least requirement such as a PEA. In the real world, decision makers in federal agencies can sometimes exercise their discretion to defend an federal equity "less than vigorously," effectively colluding with a plaintiff to acheive the plaintiff's aims without having to take a formal stand supporting the plaintiff. There's distasteful examples in recent history that resulted in huge payouts for "supported classes," but also environmental regulatory examples that stemmed from NIMBY interested parties.

SpaceX may join to ensure that doesn't happen beneath the table, or if it does, that they know so they can carry on the court case.

Offline billh

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #62 on: 05/24/2023 12:09 am »
I finally read through the text of the lawsuit against the FAA. It repeatedly suggests that environmental impacts were not properly considered, and that therefore a new EIS is needed. But the PEA did address the environmental impacts, updated for the specifics of Starship and its ground support hardware. Every possible impact the suit mentions was dealt with in the PEA, with the exception of one: the cloud of dust and sand that blew outside the PEA-designated blast danger area due to an unanticipated failure mode of the Orbital Launch Mount. But no significant environmental damage from the ejecta has been identified and SpaceX is already hard at work ensuring the probem won't be repeated.

The suit says little about any specific errors in the PEA's impact analysis, relying instead on statements like "FAA also failed to take a hard look at the environmental impacts of the SpaceX launch program". The implication is therefore that by filing this suit the plaintiffs are seeking simply to delay or halt Starship development, with the goal to prevent any possibility of impact to the surrounding environment. They seem to imagine this is the goal of NEPA, but it is not. The goal of NEPA is to examine the impacts and weigh the tradeoffs.

As with every human activity, there are tradeoffs between the environmental impacts of space launch and the benefits to mankind. Orbital class rockets are large and hazardous, but they provide unique capabilities and benefits. Because of this hazard it is essential that launch pads be located in uninhabited areas. In particular, they need to be on an eastward facing seashore. This poses a dilemma because almost all shorelines in our developed nation are either inhabited or set aside as nature preserves of one kind or another. We choose to place launch pads in uninhabited areas because we would rather risk some impacts on wildlife than the death of one human being. That's a trade I can live with, but apparently the plaintiffs cannot.

Offline TomH

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #63 on: 05/24/2023 12:27 pm »
The case could be made that Starship is on track to become a matter of national security as well as being necessary for the nation's leadership in technology.
« Last Edit: 05/24/2023 02:46 pm by TomH »

Offline meekGee

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #64 on: 05/24/2023 08:23 pm »
Jut want to point out why it's important that SpaceX join the action on the side of the FAA (vs. FAA alone). In an ideal world, Federal Departments would always vigorously defend their authority to properly resolve issues at the lowest level or least requirement such as a PEA. In the real world, decision makers in federal agencies can sometimes exercise their discretion to defend an federal equity "less than vigorously," effectively colluding with a plaintiff to acheive the plaintiff's aims without having to take a formal stand supporting the plaintiff. There's distasteful examples in recent history that resulted in huge payouts for "supported classes," but also environmental regulatory examples that stemmed from NIMBY interested parties.

SpaceX may join to ensure that doesn't happen beneath the table, or if it does, that they know so they can carry on the court case.
I think it's simpler.

The FAA will argue that the EA was sufficient and no EIS needs to be done, since that was their task here.

SpaceX will argue that an i junction will create more harm than good, since the harm is associated with SpaceX, not with the FAA.
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Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #65 on: 05/24/2023 10:40 pm »
https://twitter.com/tylerg1998/status/1661461554733129729

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The Nature Conservancy in Texas has published a statement on #SpaceX’s operations in Boca Chica, requesting a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) following the first integrated test flight of #Starship from Starbase on April 20.

https://www.nature.org/en-us/newsroom/spacex-operations-in-boca-chica-statement/

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Statement from TNC in Texas Regarding SpaceX Operations in Boca Chica

May 23, 2023 | San Antonio, Texas

The Nature Conservancy in Texas continues to request a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to address the full scope of impacts that SpaceX’s facilities expansion has had and may have on Boca Chica’s unique and productive natural environments.

South Texas is a conservation priority for The Nature Conservancy (TNC). TNC has partnered with government agencies and local groups for more than 30 years to conserve land at Boca Chica—one of the most sensitive natural areas in the state of Texas and the southwestern United States.

Boca Chica sits at the intersection of the Rio Grande, the region’s largest river, and the Laguna Madre, the world’s largest hypersaline bay system, which creates a habitat mosaic of expansive wetlands, coastal prairies, Tamaulipan thornscrub, barrier island dune grasslands, wind-tidal flats and Gulf beaches. It is also home to federally endangered species including piping plovers, red knots, sea turtles and occasional ocelots. The lower Laguna Madre is also vital habitat for migrating shorebirds and wintering raptors.

The species and ecosystems adjacent to the Boca Chica facility are some of the rarest on this planet and deserve due consideration—including detailed planning for mitigation and monitoring and assurance of proper oversight and follow through by responsible parties and/or agencies—to ensure the continued survival of these vital species and habitats.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #66 on: 05/25/2023 01:03 am »
All that they’re asking for is already in the EA and the original EIS.
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Online ZachF

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #67 on: 05/25/2023 10:35 am »


The goal of NEPA is to examine the impacts and weigh the tradeoffs.


NEPA is probably the single most damaging law in the entire United States. It’s the currently primary barrier to building clean energy (irony) facilities, factories, and transmission lines, and creates housing shortages.
« Last Edit: 05/25/2023 10:36 am by ZachF »
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Offline CorvusCorax

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #68 on: 06/22/2023 12:10 pm »


The goal of NEPA is to examine the impacts and weigh the tradeoffs.


NEPA is probably the single most damaging law in the entire United States. It’s the currently primary barrier to building clean energy (irony) facilities, factories, and transmission lines, and creates housing shortages.

It's one of those things where intention behind the law and the effect it has diverges. Normally if that happens, a law should be re-assessed, but this is where democracies are extremely inefficient. It is so hard to find a compromise that no one wants to touch one (unless they have an overwhelming majority) because of the endless back and forth that would start, likely ending in a worse compromise. As such, laws accumulate and bog the society down in ever increasing bogs of bureaucracy.

This however is off topic here. We can't make "fixing the system" a pre-requirement for going multiplanetary. On the contrary, going multiplanetary offers the chance of a new start in a new world and trying out new ways of government.

Nevertheless NEPA has it's justification and the FAA did this due duty in a multi year process before even issuing the launch license. The more I read from this, the more it seems the complaints are pretty baseless and also poorly written and argued. Any reasonable judge should dismiss this quite quickly. Now of course that could start a lengthy discussion about the quality and state of the judical system ... my suggestion is to postpone that discussion until there is a base for it - like a court ruling.

As far as I understand it, the existence of the lawsuit in itself has no effect at all on SpaceX launch operations, nor on the FAA's ability to issue further licenses. They argue (correctly) that they did everything right, so they have no reason to change anything.


Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #69 on: 06/30/2023 11:07 pm »
https://twitter.com/breadfrom/status/1674912911377022976

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SpaceX & the FAA have filed their answers to the lawsuit over Starship’s environmental impacts at 6:45p ET on a Friday. Damn.

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Unfortunately I can't attach files!!!! Fix this Elon

https://twitter.com/breadfrom/status/1674914553841303558

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This is a fairly good summary tbh

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10. SpaceX denies the allegations in Paragraph 10.
11. SpaceX denies the allegations in Paragraph 11.
12. SpaceX denies the allegations in Paragraph 12.
13. Space denies the allegations in Paragraph 13.
14. SpaceX denies the allegations in Paragraph 14.

Online jketch

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #70 on: 07/01/2023 08:15 pm »
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4. SpaceX admits that Super Heavy is a powerful rocket that uses liquid methane for
propulsion, and that launching rockets causes heat, noise, and light, but denies the remaining
allegations in Paragraph 4.

Legal briefs can be a bit entertaining sometimes.

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #71 on: 07/02/2023 05:34 am »
https://twitter.com/JackKuhr/status/1675143999068295175

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SpaceX and FAA filed its responses to allegations in the FAA v. environmental groups Starship lawsuit

I linked the full filings and highlighted a few allegations/answers below

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SpaceX responses:

https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.dcd.254763/gov.uscourts.dcd.254763.18.0.pdf

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FAA responses:

https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/67303601/17/center-for-biological-diversity-v-federal-aviation-administration/

https://storage.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.dcd.254763/gov.uscourts.dcd.254763.17.0.pdf

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Lots of conversations regarding National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and SpaceX's Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) / Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)

But below are some interesting replies re: environment (pictures are the plaintiff's allegations).

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SpaceX admits that Super Heavy is a powerful rocket that uses liquid methane for propulsion, and that launching rockets causes heat, noise, and light, but denies the remaining allegations in Paragraph 4.

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SpaceX denies the allegation that the ocelot occupies the area surrounding the Boca Chica launch site. SpaceX admits that publicly owned conservation, park, and recreation lands are in the Boca Chica area.

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SpaceX denies the allegation in P 9 that the FAA delegated decision making under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) to SpaceX.

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SpaceX admits...USFW has designated some land in the BC area as critical habitat for piping plover. SpaceX denies..that the referenced species “rely on” the area surrounding the BC launch site but aver that the ref species other than the GC jaguarundi & ocelots may use this area.

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SpaceX admits that the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife refuge that provides wildlife habitat. SpaceX denies the allegation that this refuge is nearby the Boca Chica launch site.

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SpaceX admits the allegations in Paragraph 67 that retrieving debris can impact land, as discussed in the PEA prepared by the FAA. SpaceX denies allegations inconsistent with that discussion and avers that impacts from debris retrieval have been insignificant

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SpaceX admits that Boca Chica State Park and Beach is a public beach on an approximately 8-mile stretch of the South Texas coast but denies the other allegations in the first and 3rd sentences of P 73 regarding the effects of SpaceX’s activities...

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SpaceX denies the allegation that it suggested Kennedy Space Center as a site alternative.
« Last Edit: 07/02/2023 05:36 am by FutureSpaceTourist »

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #72 on: 07/02/2023 07:10 am »
Conclusions of FAA and SpaceX submissions respectively:

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DEFENSES
1. Plaintiffs lack standing to assert the claims alleged in the Complaint.
2. Plaintiffs fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
3. Plaintiffs have failed to exhaust their administrative remedies for some or all of their claims.

PRAYER
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants request that the Court dismiss the Complaint in its entirety, render judgment for Defendants and against Plaintiffs, and grant Defendants such other and further relief that the nature of the case and justice requires.
Respectfully submitted this 30th day of June, 2023,

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AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(c) and 12(b), SpaceX sets forth the following defenses.
106. Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.
107. Plaintiffs are barred from presenting some or all of their claim by waiver or failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
108. Plaintiffs’ claim is barred in whole or in part under the doctrine of laches.
109. Plaintiffs have failed to establish standing.
110. SpaceX may have other and additional affirmative defenses about which it may be currently unaware and reserves the right to assert such affirmative defenses.

For the foregoing reasons, SpaceX respectfully requests that that the Court deny Plaintiffs’ requests for relief, dismiss the Complaint with prejudice, enter judgment for SpaceX and Federal Defendants, and grant such other relief as may be appropriate.

Edit to add: IANAL, Google search on the doctrine of laches suggests that a claimant is no longer entitled to bring a claim if they have delayed in bringing it, once they know their rights have been infringed
« Last Edit: 07/02/2023 07:18 am by FutureSpaceTourist »

Offline deltaV

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #73 on: 07/02/2023 06:06 pm »
https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/67303601/17/center-for-biological-diversity-v-federal-aviation-administration/

There's a link from that page to the whole docket: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/67303601/center-for-biological-diversity-v-federal-aviation-administration/.

Edit to add: IANAL, Google search on the doctrine of laches suggests that a claimant is no longer entitled to bring a claim if they have delayed in bringing it, once they know their rights have been infringed

My guess is SpaceX will argue that the plaintiffs delayed filing suit until SpaceX was ready to launch so that a preliminary injunction blocking launches would hurt SpaceX more. This would give the plaintiffs more leverage in settlement talks. If the court believes SpaceX on this one natural response would be to design any preliminary injunction to be less harmful to SpaceX.

Paragraph 25 of the revised complaint in docket #3 states that a particular wildlife fan plans to return to the Boca Chica area in spring 2023, which is bizarre since spring 2023 was mostly in the past when the complaint was filed on May 1 2023. This might be evidence that plaintiffs first drafted the complaint at least months ago, which would support the claims I'm guessing SpaceX will make about the plaintiffs delaying filing for strategic reasons.

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #74 on: 07/02/2023 09:10 pm »
SpaceX is lucky that the plaintiffs are kinda dumb. Not that it would’ve mattered a whole lot, as SpaceX and the FAA actually did do a good job (and I want to reiterate the praise for the commercial spaceflight wing of the FAA, they really seem to take their job seriously and are a model for other regulatory government agencies IMHO), but still. I think there’s a high chance this will just be dismissed.
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To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline DigitalMan

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #75 on: 07/02/2023 11:12 pm »
SpaceX is lucky that the plaintiffs are kinda dumb. Not that it would’ve mattered a whole lot, as SpaceX and the FAA actually did do a good job (and I want to reiterate the praise for the commercial spaceflight wing of the FAA, they really seem to take their job seriously and are a model for other regulatory government agencies IMHO), but still. I think there’s a high chance this will just be dismissed.

For SpaceX, the important thing is that they are able to respond in this lawsuit. Look how long the government let the HLS bid protest drag out, based on what little birdies told me should have happened with that suit.

Regarding this suit, so far the little birdies are uninterested in looking at it. :-(

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #76 on: 07/05/2023 04:42 pm »
https://twitter.com/matthewtortora_/status/1676605616817676291

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🚨SpaceX Motion to Intervene granted🚨

As I said in my spaces this was very much expected but it is nice to finally have confirmation.
In addition, Judge Nichols ordered a filing of administrative record (Essentially a collection FAA documents related to the case) by July 31st

https://twitter.com/matthewtortora_/status/1676624945399341056

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Basically, SpaceX is now in the case on the side of the FAA defending against the environmental groups’ claims. They now have until July 31st to submit the relevant records of the environmental analysis process regarding the choice of a PEA over an EA EIS.

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So what does it mean for Spacex or anyone else?

https://twitter.com/matthewtortora_/status/1676624415361220609

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More waiting, just part of the process however for many who assumed this case was frivolous it is kind of a wake up call because it means that the Judge is taking it seriously and so is SpaceX. Them being admitted to the case affirms SpaceXs concern  as well
« Last Edit: 07/05/2023 04:43 pm by FutureSpaceTourist »

Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #77 on: 07/05/2023 08:33 pm »
SpaceX is lucky that the plaintiffs are kinda dumb. Not that it would’ve mattered a whole lot, as SpaceX and the FAA actually did do a good job (and I want to reiterate the praise for the commercial spaceflight wing of the FAA, they really seem to take their job seriously and are a model for other regulatory government agencies IMHO), but still. I think there’s a high chance this will just be dismissed.

I think there's a high chance that it will be dismissed, but I'm guessing that we will be following this suit in one form or another for several years because of appeals that end up in front of friendlier judges and sets of judges.

Online darkenfast

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Re: Environmental groups sue FAA over SS approval
« Reply #78 on: 07/08/2023 04:21 am »
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