To conduct its newly proposed operations of Starship/Super Heavy at the Boca Chica Launch Site, SpaceX must obtain an experimental permit or launch license from the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Issuing experimental permits and launch licenses is considered a major federal action under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended, and requires an environmental review. NEPA sets forth the nation's environmental policy, requires federal agencies to consider and disclose the environmental impacts of their proposed actions, and encourages them to make environmentally responsible decisions. When implemented correctly, the NEPA process ensures FAA decision-makers have sufficient information about potential project impacts so they can make more informed decisions. The FAA's policies and procedures for implementing NEPA are described in FAA Order 1050.1F, Environmental Impacts: Policies and Procedures.
Scope of Analysis
The draft EA will consider potential impacts of the proposed action on the following environmental impact categories: air quality; biological resources (including fish, wildlife, and plants); climate; coastal resources; Department of Transportation Act, Section 4(f); farmlands; hazardous materials, solid waste, and pollution prevention; historical, architectural, archaeological and cultural resources; land use; natural resources and energy supply; noise and noise-compatible land use; socioeconomics, environmental justice, and children's health and safety risks; visual effects; and water resources (including wetlands, floodplains, surface waters, groundwater, and wild and scenic rivers).
The alternatives currently under consideration include the proposed action and the no action alternative. Under the no action alternative, the FAA would not issue new permits or licenses to SpaceX for any test or launch operations at the Boca Chica Launch Site. SpaceX could continue to conduct missions of the Starship prototype launch vehicle as authorized by the current license (LRLO 20-119A). The license expires on May 27, 2022.
Concurrent with the NEPA process, FAA will be initiating consultation required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act to determine the potential effects of the FAA's undertaking on historic properties. The FAA will also be consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act regarding potential effects to threatened and endangered species and critical habitat. Pursuant to the U.S. Department of Transportation Act of 1966, the environmental review will comply with the requirements of Section 4(f) of the Act.