In January, more than 65 public comments were submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) demanding language access to public hearings and assessments of the SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy project expansion on Boca Chica Beach. The FAA is blatantly ignoring the request by affected Rio Grande Valley residents for Spanish interpretation and closed captioning for the October 18 and 20 online public hearings.
Below is the comment written in English that residents personalized and submitted in January 2021 to the FAA using our organization’s online letter campaign.
To the Federal Aviation Administration –
I am deeply concerned about the SpaceX launch site expansion and its economic, cultural, & environmental impacts on the region. Since the operations began in Brownsville, TX, numerous explosions have threatened public safety, caused dangerous fires near wildlife refuges, and stripped locals’ access to the pristine beach. These explosive risks will only increase because of three liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, with their safety hazards, plan to build within 6-miles of SpaceX. The facility is also actively gentrifying the region by displacing people from their homes at Boca Chica Village. SpaceX should not be allowed to expand and increase the size and scale of these damages.
Our elected officials and SpaceX should not be allowed to privatize or commercialize Boca Chica and further restrict access from the public. Boca Chica beach is culturally and spiritually sacred to the Rio Grande Valley people, especially to the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, who were never consulted about the SpaceX project.
For these reasons, the FAA should reject Elon Musk’s plans to expand the SpaceX facility because of the negative impacts on the region. At the very least, the FAA needs to extend the commenting period because of the increase in COVID-19 cases in South Texas and should provide a hearing with Spanish interpreting and closed captioning for the public to ask questions about operations.
Moreover, the FAA’s webpage for the SpaceX expansion project on Boca Chica Beach is distressfully inadequate. Currently, the webpage is only available in the English language. While the summary of the programmatic environmental assessment for the proposed SpaceX operations has been translated into Spanish, there are many other documents on the webpage only published in English. The FAA webpage does not indicate that there will be language interpreting or closed captioning available nor does it provide the public an opportunity to request language translation access during the hearing.
Last year, several environmental organizations won a civil rights lawsuit against the state regulator, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), for failing to provide multi-language access to Latinx communities in Texas impacted by the polluting industries to which TCEQ grants permits. The FAA will now be another regulatory agency that will face backlash for failing to meet multi-language access requests from already marginalized Rio Grande Valley communities where about 80% of 1.4 million people speak Spanish as their first language.
Some federal regulatory agencies have begun to provide language access at hearings. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)’s Office of Public Participation have provided a Spanish interpreter during hearings. However, published documents, notices, and outreach from these agencies in other languages beyond English are still severely lacking.
If you’re upset about the ongoing language divide in our community, we urge you to send an email to Congressman Filemon Vela at firstname.lastname@example.org and CC the FAA at SpaceXBocaChica@icf.com demanding that the FAA’s webpage, information, and hearings are translated into Spanish and include closed captioning. Please send your email and encourage others to send an email before the scheduled hearings on October 18 and 20.
If you have concerns or would like to express opposition about the way SpaceX has been operating and their plans to blast off the biggest rocket ever flown, please attend the FAA’s online hearings on October 18 and 20th and/or submit a comment online.
For years, SpaceX has harmed wildlife and the public’s safety by blowing up rocket debris into neighborhoods and wildlife refuges. Even more egregious, SpaceX has never consulted with the original Native people, the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, who have ancestral ties to the region about their operations. Deviously, Elon Musk is using his Twitter account to encourage outsiders who won’t be physically impacted by the rocket launch fallout at Boca Chica Beach to make flagrant comments of support for SpaceX to the FAA. We need you to speak up for the safety, health, and environmental integrity of the community. You have until November 1st to send your comment.