The FAA As Shakedown Artist: Why The U.S. Can’t Build Great Things Anymore

The U.S. takes longer to build projects, and spends more to build similar projects, than other countries. A new example from the FAA is a great illustration of why. Here’s what the FAA has required from SpaceX to move forward with its Starship rocket program – and the government is actually bragging about it in a press release.

SpaceX will coordinate with a “qualified biologist” on lighting inspections to minimize the impact on sea turtles, operate an employee shuttle between the city of Brownsville and the facility, and perform quarterly cleanups of the local Boca Chica Beach.

The company will also contribute to local education and preservation efforts — including preparing a historical context report of the events of the Mexican War and the Civil War that took place in the area as well as replacing missing ornaments on a local historical marker. The company will also make annual contributions of $5,000 each to organizations that protect ocelots and endangered birds of prey, as well as a state recreational fishing program.

Need I mention that to get to this point the FAA has taken more than a year and a half in its review? And that’s for a “Mitigated Finding of No Significant Impact” that avoids having to go through an Environmental Impact Statement.

There are too many veto points in any project. In development, environmental review created too much ‘citizen participation’. Large-scale projects drag on for years and cost far more than their counterparts in Europe. Federal agencies signing off on projects add too many costs, too (so do local governments extracting concessions from developers, which limits how much housing gets built and raises the cost of housing).

Each request may seem minor on its own, but it’s death by a thousand cuts for many projects

— Alec Stapp (@AlecStapp) June 14, 2022

Government-mandated charitable donations to favored groups? An “historical context report of the events of the Mexican War and the Civil War” and “replacing missing ornaments on a local historical marker”? This is why it’s so hard to have nice things.

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