Environmentalists sue Texas officials, claiming the repeated closing of public beaches so that Elon Musk's SpaceX could test its rockets is unconstitutional

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  • A nonprofit group is suing Texas officials over the closing of public beaches for "SpaceX flight activities."

  • Save RGV said the Boca Chica beach has been closed for SpaceX launches for over 450 hours per year since 2019.

  • SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment, but said in August that the group's allegations were "not accurate."

Environmentalists have sued Texas officials over claims they continually closed public beaches to allow SpaceX to test out its rockets.

An environmental nonprofit group, called Save Rio Grande Valley (Save RGV), filed the lawsuit in Cameron County state court on Monday, Reuters first reported. The court document claims that the repeated closure of public beaches along the Gulf Coast violates the Texas Constitution and "Texans essential right to access Texas public beaches."

The lawsuit said that Cameron County, Texas General Land Office, and its commissioner George P. Bush have allowed the Boca Chica beach, an 8-mile stretch of land near Brownsville, to be closed for up to 450 hours per year so SpaceX can test its spacecrafts.

Save RGV said in its lawsuit that the land is part of a wildlife refuge in Cameron County and aims to prevent future closures of the land, as well as State Highway 4 - the only road that leads to the beach.

SpaceX didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Save RGV's lawsuit said a 2013 amendment to the Texas Open Beaches Act allowed the closure of public beaches located along the Gulf Coast "for space flight activities." Since 2019, county officials have repeatedly closed-off the beach and State Highway 4 for various SpaceX launches, including its Falcon rockets, the lawsuit states.

The group also said that, per the amendment, the public was to be given at least 14 days notice before a closure went into place. But, Save RGV alleges the county often gave notice only hours before the land would be closed-off. The lawsuit alleges that there have been reports of SpaceX closing the beach on its own and extending closure hours without official county approval.

Save RGV says the amended law violates the Texas Constitution because it restricts public access to the land and claims the SpaceX closures have negatively impacted the ability of residents who live near the beach to fully enjoy their home, as well as prevented members of the nonprofit from participating in activities that help preserve local wildlife.

"This isn't rocket science," Jim Chapman, a board member of Save RGV, said in a statement to Reuters. "The Texas Constitution is crystal clear. In Texas, access to public beaches cannot be restricted."

Save RGV has clashed with SpaceX in the past. It alerted the district attorney to the issue over the summer. At the time, SpaceX reportedly told the district attorney Save RGV's allegations were "not accurate."

Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration said it would extend a period for the public to submit comments on a draft report studying the environmental impacts of the proposed SpaceX rocket program in Boca Chica.

In August, "60 Minutes" reported it had obtained government documents showing SpaceX disrupted public access to the beach in "excess of 1,000 hours in 2019," violating its FAA permit, which only allowed the areas to be closed for 300 hours per year.

"60 Minutes" also reported that SpaceX's Starbase facility in Texas had created tension with local residents who claim the space company conducts tests with little warning - tests which have caused residents to evacuate their homes. They also alleged the tests led to brush fires and property damage.

In March, a SpaceX prototype exploded at the launch site, scattering the debris throughout the wildlife preserve.

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