Maine Child Woken By Rocket Test In Brunswick, Many More To Come

Illustration of a rocket being launched with graphics indicating extreme noise levels.
Source: Popular Mechanics “How The Noise Of Big Rockets Breaks Apart Buildings”

A friend of mine received an email from a friend of his in Brunswick, Maine this week:

Did you hear this last night? I thought of you when my 8 year old came running into my room terrified and crying after they woke him up.

https://www.wmtw.com/article/maine-company-successfully-test-fires-rocket/41347930

If you can imagine being 8 years old again, you are probably aware of the threat of war breaking out. (At least I was at that age.) Even if you are not, a terribly loud industrial sound — loud enough to wake you up — could send you running in tears to your parents to ask them what’s going on. 

The parents were alarmed by the loud noise also, but didn’t find out until the following day that it was bluShift Aerospace testing one of the rockets it intends to launch from the Maine coast at Steuben, near Acadia National Park. The company’s headquarters, however, is in Brunswick, a heavily populated area where they plan several more tests.

Photo from Twitter user Scott Gustin showing a fireball and black smoke at a rocket launch site in Florida.
Explosion rocks SpaceX test launch site during test

Brunswick already gets hit hard by excessive noise every time a military air show comes to town. Last time the Blue Angels performed, a sonic boom cracked the sliding glass doors of another friend of mine, a woman in her 90’s. Her daughter contacted the Brunswick Landing folks who hosted the airshow, but no compensation for the damage was offered.

I continue to be mystified about two things:

  • What democratic process was used in Steuben to determine that rocket launches would be allowed there? Or in Brunswick to determine if the public wants to endure this level of noise pollution?
  • When will environmental groups and activists in Maine wake up to the environmental harms of a rocket launch site on the coast? BluShift plans up to 35 launches per year from the Steuben site! I’ve reached out to Sierra Club of Maine, 350 Maine, and several other groups. But if they are beholden to the Democratic Party, they will likely continue to look the other way.

According to her recent newsletter to constituents, Brunswick’s Senator Mattie Daughtry (a Democrat) is full of self-congratulation over her authorship of this bill. Clearly she is representing moneyed interests in Maine, not schoolchildren who deserve not to be terrified awake on a school night.

Sand beach with large piece of twisted metal and a local bird in Texas.
Wilson’s Plover with debris from SpaceX operations in Boca Chica, Texas. Image credit: Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program (CBBEP)

Those of us in Maine who are paying attention have a website, NoToxicRockets4ME.org, where you can find out more about this environmental issue plus the experiences of other places (Kodiak, New Zealand) where rocket launch sites have been built. Locals are promised that what they will get in return for the industrialization of a pristine coastal spot is jobs (which don’t materialize) and no military use (which does materialize).

Map of Maine coast showing close proximity of Acadia National Park to Steuben.
Steuben, Maine is outlined in red

I hope Mainers wake up before campers in Acadia are awakened by loud noises scaring children and disrupting wildlife in what was once a peaceful spot.

Who Needs Consent Of The Governed When There Are Profits To Be Made? Maine’s Rocket Launch Bill

Rocket launch site built at public expense in Kodiak, Alaska.

A local law with far reaching consequences snuck across the finish line this week in my state. The bill created a Maine Space Corporation, defined as a public-private partnership to facilitate establishing rocket launch sites in Vacationland. It was passed under the gavel i.e. without a roll call vote in the House, and will undoubtedly receive the governor’s signature as Janet Mills, a neoliberal Democrat, is a consistent cheerleader for corporate looting of public resources.

Why Maine? Most types of orbit require launch sites nearer the equator, but polar orbits need launching nearer the poles. A local space watcher theorizes that the Pentagon is promoting the construction of many “private” launch sites at the expense of others, hoping to drive down the cost of paying to use them for military launches by creating competition. 

Certainly, rocket launch sites are proliferating all over the planet.

A group of us collaborated to ferret out the details of a bill that was rushed through the public hearing process of the IDEA legislative committee. That event was successfully managed to hear from those who plan to profit from the bill but a dismal failure at hearing from actual Maine taxpayers (“no one testified against the bill!” gloated supporters). Considering not a single article or television news story on the bill appeared until after the public hearing, those of us who would have testified about objections didn’t know about it. We did of course then submit written testimony detailing our objections (which testimony you can read here).

During work sessions in committee, the bill received no fiscal note i.e. identification of expected costs to the public. One committee member reported the group was told that they would have to pass the bill to learn the eventual costs, another that the price tag would likely be $90 million.

 Two competing amendments further muddied the water as the bill passed out of committee with a divided report, two members voting no on any version and some voting “ought to pass” contingent upon one or the other of the amendments.

The amendment that was eventually adopted contains this gem of wholesale looting of public resources for private profits, couched of course in the impentrable language of bureaucratic fascism:

removes the prohibition of public officials, members of the board of directors or employees of the corporation from acquiring or holding a direct or indirect financial or personal interest in a corporation activity, a corporation property or a contract or proposed contract in connection with a corporation activity.”

My husband called to leave a message with our senator on the morning we had heard that the bill would be taken up after passing with no roll call vote in the House. According to the Senate office in Augusta, it had already passed the previous night.

In an email our senator, Brad Farrin, (one of 7 who voted no) commented:

I agree with your assessment of LD 1923 as many bills during this “emergency “ session are being rushed through without proper hearings and debate.

In addition to our website NoToxicRockets4ME, here is the one-pager we prepared for citizen lobbying efforts in advance of its passage:

“Explosion rocks SpaceX test launch site in Florida during test“”

You might think that the state’s big environmental organizations would have opposed this bill, but you would need to ask yourself first if they take money from the Democratic Party. You might also ask yourself why these organizations nationally have been so ineffectual in halting the extraction activities that are hastening us to climate chaos whether D’s or R’s are in control of the White House and Congress. (Hint: if it involves pushing back on the military, fugedaboudit.)

The only group successful at opposing the plan for rocket launches from the Maine coast was the lobster fishing community of tiny Jonesport. They rallied around and got a moratorium in place as one of the originators of the bill made plans to launch from an island smack dab in the middle of their fishing grounds. The rocket profiteer eventually dropped plans saying the public were misinformed but so stubborn that he’ll look for a site in Florida instead.

Is the consent of the governed needed to put a good appearance on things? 

NIMBY efforts would lead us to say so, but the way LD 1923 was bum rushed through the legislative process suggests otherwise. This year Maine’s governor has vetoed a slew of bills strongly supported by the people who voted for her, but she’ll no doubt sign this one at the behest of her corporate sponsors.

She’s counting on the fact that most in Maine will vote for her anyway, because the Republican is so awful.

Democrats may continue misconstruing that as “having the people’s support,” but my reading of history tends to suggest otherwise.

A staggering inflation rate for food and fuel, and no universal healthcare despite a ongoing pandemic, is what national Democratic leadership is offering up. 

Maybe the ruling class needs to keep building weapons while children go to bed hungry because they actually do know what happened to regimes that lost the consent of those they governed?