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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Groups appeal lawsuit against SpaceX beach closures on border

EDINBURG, Texas (Border Report) — Two environmental groups and an Indigenous tribe on Wednesday will present appeals in their lawsuit against the State of Texas for closing a popular border beach for SpaceX tests.

The group — Save RGV, the Sierra Club, and the Carrizo Comecrudo Nation of Texas — are scheduled to present oral arguments before the 13th Court of Appeals in Edinburg on Wednesday morning. They are suing to keep Boca Chica Beach from repeated closures for test flights and SpaceX activity.

Last summer, a district court judge in Brownsville ruled against their lawsuit, saying they can’t sue the Texas General Land Office and Cameron County, where the beach and Space X are located, for not upholding the Texas Open Beaches Act.

The groups have appealed and at issue is whether they have a constitutional right to sue.

The Texas Constitution grants the public rights to all public beaches, but the legal challenge is whether a private group can sue the state over that right.

Jim Chapman is a board member of Save RGV. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

Environmentalist Jim Chapman, who is on the board of Save RGV, told Border Report that last year, Boca Chica Beach was closed for over 1,000 hours during 100 days. That’s double the 500 hours of closures the Federal Aviation Administration has authorized SpaceX, he said.

“It’s to the point now that whenever SpaceX wants the beach closed, they just tell the county and the county closes it and it violates the Constitution; it violates a memorandum of understanding between the county and the GLO and nobody is keeping track of the hours,” Chapman said.

Environmentalists have repeatedly complained about the damages to the Rio Grande Valley ecosystem associated with rocket explosions and launches so close to the beach where sea turtles nest.

Boca Chica Beach is on the Gulf of Mexico just a mile north of the Mexican border in South Texas. It is a quarter mile from SpaceX’s South Texas Starbase facility. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

“We hope to accomplish that the judge will recognize that we do have standing, that we can bring a lawsuit,” Chapman said.

If they win on appeal then the case will go back to the district court in Brownsville on the merits of the case. If not, the groups could appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.

Border Report intends to cover Wednesday’s case. Check back for more updates.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at [email protected].

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