NATIONAL NEWS

Texas approves land-swapping deal with SpaceX as company hopes to expand rocket-launch operations

Mar 6, 2024, 2:33 PM

MCALLEN, TX (AP) — SpaceX would acquire public land in Texas to expand its rocket-launch facilities under a tentative deal that is moving forward after months of opposition from nearby residents and officials near the U.S.-Mexico border.

A tentative land-swapping deal moved forward this week when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission unanimously voted in favor of the deal to swap 43 noncontiguous acres from Boca Chica State Park with SpaceX, which would then give the state 477 acres about 10 miles south of the park near Brownsville, Texas.

Some of the 43 contested acres are landlocked with no public access but with protected plant and animal species. Although SpaceX is proposing swapping the public land for 477 acres, it has not yet purchased that property. None of the land in the deal has beach access, but the 43 acres sit near protected federal land and lagoons that stretch along the coast.

“Through this transaction we are guaranteeing the conservation of 477 acres, which would otherwise potentially be developed into condominiums or strip centers,” Jeffery D. Hildebrand, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission chairman appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, said at the meeting’s close.

The deal started in 2019 as a conversation between the state and SpaceX. But it was finally worked out in 2023, said David Yoskowitz, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s executive director.

People sent over 2,300 letters to the department to voice their opinion. Although the majority, 60%, were opposed, the department recommended the state vote in favor of the deal, which had the support from the Democratic state senator for the area, the comptroller and the Texas General Land Office commissioner.

Dozens of people traveled up to the Monday’s meeting in the state capital of Austin to voice their support or discontent with the plan.

Cyrus Reed, the legislative and conservation director with the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, was among those opposing the deal.

“We think, as an alternative, if we think the 477 acres are valuable, go and buy it. We the voters of Texas have given you money to purchase valuable land,” Reed said, referring to the state’s Centennial Parks Conservation Fund.

In November, voters approved the establishment of the fund, creating the largest endowment for park development in Texas history.

“And remember the precedent you’re setting,” Reed said. “If you approve this deal, that means every industrialist, everyone who has an interest in expanding is going to look at this and say, ‘Where can I go find some land that I can exchange to continue to pollute and hurt other land?’ So, that’s not a net benefit for Texas.”

SpaceX Starbase general manager Kathryn Lueders attended the meeting and said she has seen wildlife coexist with spacecraft in Florida when she worked as a program manager for NASA.

“At the same time, it further expands on a critical refuge and allows Texans to receive a coveted property which has been sought by multiple state and federal agencies for conservation efforts for over a decade,” she said.

An environmental assessment, public comment period and other consultations could mean the disposition of the property could take up to 18 months to complete, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s general counsel.

National News

Associated Press

Several people shot at Oakland Juneteenth Celebration, police say

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — A Juneteenth celebration turned violent when several people were shot, police in Oakland, California, said. The Lake Merritt event on Wednesday night was largely peaceful, with as many as 5,000 in attendance, until a sideshow involving “motorbikes and vehicles” took place at Bellevue and Grand avenues at around 8:15 p.m. on […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Probe finds carelessness caused Jewish student group’s omission from New Jersey high school yearbook

An investigation into how and why a Jewish student group was erased from a New Jersey high school yearbook found the omission was caused by negligence and carelessness, but was not done on purpose or out of malice, the school district announced Wednesday. East Brunswick Public Schools hired a law firm to investigate after the […]

11 hours ago

Associated Press

Shooting in Philadelphia wounds 7 people, police say

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Seven people were wounded Wednesday evening in a shooting in Philadelphia, police said. The shooting happened just before 6:30 p.m. in North Philadelphia. The victims include a 19-year-old man who was shot in the leg, a 31-year-old woman shot in the hand, a 23-year-old man shot in the buttock, and two women […]

12 hours ago

Associated Press

Boaters find $1 million of cocaine floating off Florida Keys

MIAMI (AP) — Recreational boaters found $1 million worth of cocaine floating in the ocean off the Florida Keys. Samuel Briggs II, the acting chief patrol agent of the U.S. Border Patrol, wrote about the find in a social media post on X. Briggs posted video Monday night showing the wrapped packages of cocaine being […]

15 hours ago

Associated Press

Police credit New Yorkers for suspect’s arrest in the rape of a 13-year-old girl

NEW YORK (AP) — Residents of a New York City neighborhood were praised for their role in the arrest of an Ecuadorian accused of raping a 13-year-old girl, a crime that the city’s police commissioner said “shocked our entire city.” Christian Geovanny Inga-Landi, 25, was arrested early Tuesday outside a deli in Corona, Queens. He […]

16 hours ago

Associated Press

New law requires all Louisiana public school classrooms to display the Ten Commandments

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana has become the first state to require that the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom, the latest move from a GOP-dominated Legislature pushing a conservative agenda under a new governor. The legislation that Republican Gov. Jeff Landry signed into law on Wednesday requires a poster-sized display […]

19 hours ago

Texas approves land-swapping deal with SpaceX as company hopes to expand rocket-launch operations