Rocket company Helping to Trash U.S. Virgin Islands Environmently
Associated Press, 6 October 1999
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands (October 5, 1999 10:36 p.m. EDT http://www.nandotimes.com) - Citing economic necessity, the Senate of the U.S. Virgin Islands approved a controversial land deal Tuesday that will allow a Texas-based rocket company to build its headquarters and assembly plant on a historic site.
Beal Aerospace Technologies Inc. of Frisco, Texas wanted the property on St. Croix's south coast, known as Great Pond Bay, in exchange for an existing plot on the south coast that is located near a landfill and oil refinery.
The new plot has pre-Colombian ruins and remnants of a plantation and slave master's house dating from 1765. Environmentalists say the area has fragile coral and wetlands that could be damaged by ship traffic.
The Senate voted 10-5 to approve the bill. Gov. Charles Turnbull had said the land deal was necessary to bring 130 jobs and a $50 million investment to St. Croix, where the 8.6 percent jobless rate is about twice the U.S. national average.
"We have to decide whether we side with the birds and the bees or with families whose unemployment has run out and food stamps aren't coming through," Sen. Norman Jean Baptiste, of St. Croix, said during the debate Tuesday.
Beal spokesman Wade Gates told The Associated Press in June that the new site would be crucial to the company's plans in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"If we are bringing in international visitors from around the world, we can't be around the corner ... from the island's dump or the oil refinery," Gates said.
Gov. Charles Turnbull said in a written statement Friday that Beal's proposal "will help us to turn the corner on economic recovery." The U.S. Caribbean territory, with 115,000 residents, has $1.1 billion of debt.
The new venture, Caribbean Space Technologies, would assemble rockets that are 20.5 feet in diameter and 223 feet tall, and Beal says it would not cause pollution. The rockets would be fueled at the launch site, which Beal is negotiating to build in either Guyana or Sombrero Island in Anguilla.