If Elon Musk expects people to believe that Tesla electric vehicles reflect his commitment to the environment, the South African born multi-billionaire is going to have to address the damage Space X has wrought across South Texas. The explosion of the Super Heavy rocket on April 20 — just two days before Earth Day — blew chunks of concrete across Boca Chica beach and neighboring National Wildlife Refuges, leaving homes and the bay complex coated in particulate dust, just as the spring bird migration was reaching its peak in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The blast burned 3.5 acres in the dunes at Boca Chica (not much compared to the wildfire that consumed 68 acres last fall), damaging habitat not just for endangered shorebirds such as the piping plover, but also threatened species such as the Kemp’s sea turtle, and ocelot, a rare wildcat found in Texas.
The entire debacle has inspired a new environmental lawsuit against the FAA to prevent a repeat of the accident, which notably was “by design” according to engineers with the company. Not that any of this comes as a surprise to close observers of the Space X saga in Texas. In fact, when then-Gov. Rick Perry and the Lone Star lege first courted Musk’s Space X to the outskirts of Brownsville in 2014, Texas Monthly dispatched me to Boca Chica to get the scoop on environmental concerns in this story “The Battle of Boca Chica.”
As has been observed elsewhere, what if Musk put $2 billion towards conservation programs rather than his Mars mission and the program to leave Earth behind?