McALLEN, Texas (AP) -- Building and operating a private rocket launch site along the coast in the southernmost tip of Texas would be unlikely to jeopardize the existence of protected animal species and would create few unavoidable impacts, according to a final federal environmental review.
The Federal Aviation Administration released the environmental impact statement for California-based SpaceX on Thursday. It does not guarantee that the FAA would issue launch licenses there, but it is an essential step in that direction.
SpaceX has proposed launching 12 rockets per year from the site east of Brownsville called Boca Chica Beach, but did not make any promises Thursday.
"Though Brownsville remains a finalist for the development of a commercial orbital launch complex, the decision will not be made until all technical and regulatory due diligence is complete," SpaceX spokeswoman Hannah Post said in an email. She noted several more regulatory hurdles that would have to be cleared before the company makes a decision.
The launches would create unavoidable noise for residents of a nearby neighborhood and dramatically alter the landscape of sand dunes, wetlands and grasses, but other impacts can be mitigated, the report said.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which had raised concerns about possible impact on habitat for some endangered species, ultimately concluded that "the project is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed or proposed to be listed species nor adversely modify piping plover critical habitat."
SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk indicated last month that the company planned to develop the launch site in Texas. Sites in Florida, Georgia and Puerto Rico had been considered as well, but the Texas site was always much further along in the planning process.
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