Courtney Naquin, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brownsville, TX – Today, the Sierra Club and Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas joined local environmental group SaveRGV in suing the Texas General Land Office, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, and Cameron County for closing Boca Chica Beach for SpaceX operations. Restricting access to a public beach, as the defendants have done, violates the Texas Constitution.
In 2013, the Legislature amended the Texas Open Beaches Act to let Texas beaches close for space flight operations, and just five years later, SpaceX built its massive rocket-launching facility 1,500 feet from water’s edge on Boca Chica Beach. The 2013 statute change conflicts with the state constitution, which Texas voters amended in 2009 – by a 77% majority – to guarantee the right to free and open access to public beaches.
The defendants have closed Boca Chica beach so frequently that RGV residents have seen their access essentially disappear. The Carrizo/Comecrudo Nation of Texas, which holds the land of Boca Chica sacred, has been ignored while they lose access to their ancestral heritage. In just the first three months of 2022, the beach has been effectively closed for 196 hours. In 2021, it was effectively closed for over 600 hours. This is far beyond the numbers reported by SpaceX or even allowed under the framework the defendants are using as an unconstitutional loophole.
“The constant closures of Hwy 4 and Boca Chica Beach are unconstitutional and have the effect of robbing local residents of a sacred space when they need it; to commune, to reflect, to breathe and have a good time. Boca Chica Beach was like no other. It was a wild place where we, generations of families, spent our quality time,” said Mary Helen Flores, a local Brownsville resident. “We grew roots in the dunes and waters of Boca Chica. Family traditions had been maintained for decades- until SpaceX. Now beach access is a gamble due to the SpaceX calendar taking top priority with governing bodies. SpaceX structures and activities impact access to our beach and the quality of our beach experience. The noise and light pollution are an obscene unending presence in what is still a wildlife corridor. We need a remedy for our beach, for our wildlife and for ourselves.”
“This is sacred land and the land of our ancestors,” said Juan Mancias, chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. “We had villages here, to come together here for our life ways and to fish and to live. Our ancestors are buried in these lands. Our umbilical cords are planted in these lands. No one has the right to deny us access to our sacred sites, which include the beach and the mouth of the river. Excessive beach closures impede and deter our people from giving offerings and prayers and visiting our sacred sites. These closures need to stop.”
“I grew up going to Boca Chica Beach just like my parents and grandparents did,” said Emma Guevara, a Sierra Club organizer in Brownsville. “It is an important part of our community, and to have it taken away is a direct confrontation of our rights. Joining the lawsuit stresses that we won’t put up with the state giving our public beach to a private corporation.”
The lawsuit, filed by Save RGV in October 2021, argues that the court should invalidate the unconstitutional Texas statute. The judge is expected to hear pleas to the jurisdiction filed by the County and Attorney General Ken Paxton on June 1.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.