Thursday, July 18, 2024

Environmental groups concerned over increase in SpaceX rocket launches

“There are very important wildlife habitats on the base, and it’s important that those species have a voice,” said Ana Citrin, Gaviota Coast Conservancy legal and policy director.

SpaceX is back in front of the California Coastal Commission after violating the cap on beach closures near Vandenberg Space Force Base.

“There was a 14 per-year limit initially imposed on SpaceX, which they exceeded pretty much right off the bat,” Citrin said.

In addition to beach closures, the Gaviota Coast Conservancy is concerned by the increase in launches from Vandenberg, which Citrin says have been doubling.

“We had 28 in 2023, and now we are looking at 50 or more,” she explained.

More rockets also have the Surfrider Foundation concerned for the future.

“The rate of increase in launches is just happening so fast that we can’t rely on historical data to inform what the impacts will be, so it feels like a big experiment,” said Mandy Sackett, Surfrider Foundation policy coordinator.

Concerns about environmental impact, coastal access, and sound and hazardous waste are all things Sackett says need more attention.

“Vandenberg wants to get to 100 launches per year within the next two years, so they’re trying to increase extremely rapidly,” -Sackett said.

An impact not studied yet is sonic booms, which Sackett says have been heard as southeast as Ojai.

“And we’re asking Vandenberg and SpaceX to pump the brakes and just increase at a much slower rate so that the monitoring data on marine life so we can, you know, catch up and understand what those impacts will be,” explained Sackett.

Even if a cap is implemented, Citrin says it’s not enforceable.

“The Coastal Commission doesn’t have that permitting authority where they can just say, all right, you violate your permit. You must cease activity because of the relationship between the state agency and the federal agency. Their jurisdiction is different,” Citrin said.

But that could change.

“And that’s one of the things that the Coastal Commission is currently considering is whether it might be appropriate to exercise their permitting jurisdiction over SpaceX given that SpaceX is a private company and not part of the federal government,” Citrin added.

SpaceX has not responded to KSBY’s request for comment.

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