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Environment Texas
|
Longview News Journal
By
Cathaleen Qiao Chen

Texas got one step closer to the edge of the universe at the end of May when a federal agency gave private aerospace company SpaceX preliminary approval for a 56.5-acre rocket launch site in Brownsville.

While many business and community leaders in the border town on Texas’ southernmost tip are over the moon about the economic prospects, environmental protection advocates worry the noisy, fiery operation could endanger local wildlife.

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Not everyone is as positive about the development. Luke Metzger of Environment Texas, an environmental advocacy organization, said that although the FAA report suggests SpaceX should be wary of the launch site’s impact on wildlife, he is skeptical the company will take local habitat into consideration.

Noise pollution and contamination from the chemicals sprayed during rocket launches are among the issues to consider, Metzger said. Ocelots, a threatened leopard species, face the greatest risks, he said. The animals are already vulnerable to being run over by cars, and the heavy traffic of site construction would pose an even greater threat to the spotted felines.

“An area surrounded by state parks is not appropriate for industrial activity,” Metzger said. “When Texas has such little public land — less than 5 percent is publicly protected as state parks — we need to be taking the best care of the parks we do have.”