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Document 1838339
ReedSmith Mardiros H. Dakessian
Direct Phone: +1 213 457 8310
Email: [email protected]
John R. Messenger
Direct Phone: +14156595992
Email: [email protected]
Shirley Wei
Direct Phone: +1 2134578217
Email: [email protected]
Reed Smith LLP
355 South Grand Avenue
Suite 2900
Los Angeles, CA 90071-1514
Tel +1 2134578000
Fax +1 2134578080
reedsmith.com
May 19,2014
By Electronic Mail
Ms. Sherrie Kinkle
State Board of Equalization
Property and Special Taxes Department
450 N Street
Sacramento, California 94279-0064
Re:
Property Tax Rule 133, Business Inventory Exemption
Dear Ms. Kinkle:
On behalf of our client, Space Exploration Technologies Corp ("SpaceX"), we write to express our full
support of Chief Counsel Randy Ferris' memorandum to the Board dated May 8, 2014 ("Board
Analysis"). We also write to respond to the misleading and inaccurate comments submitted by Santa
Clara County Assessor Larry Stone. We reserve the right to provide further comments at the Board's
May 22,2014 hearing in Sacramento.
First. Mr. Stone states that the "crux ofthe dispute ... concerns a contention by the space transport
industry that a special exemption is needed ...." This statement is wrong. We agree with the Board
Analysis that the proposed revisions to Rule 133 simply clarify existing law, which is consistent with the
Legal Division's ruling on the subject. In short, this is not a "special exemption," but a necessary
clarification of existing law.
Second. Mr. Stone states that his "research indicates that companies like SpaceX no more tum over
control of their vehicles to a Range Safety Officer, than United Airlines turns over control of its aircraft
to the FAA," and then, draws the analogy that "[j]ust as the FAA has the authority to ground any and all
aircraft, as it did on '9-11', so too does the Range Safety Officer have the authority to destroy SpaceX
cargo vehicles based only on safety considerations .... The RSO has no more control than an air traffic
control officer." Not only is Mr. Stone's analogy misplaced, but his conclusion is wrong. We agree
with the Board Analysis with respect to the responsibilities and authority of the Air Force (Range
Safety) and the Mission Flight Control Officer's role as the sole decision-making authority and initiator
of the flight tennination system. Mr. Stone's analogy makes no sense - an air traffic controller does
not have the authority or the ability to destroy an aircraft. The analogy also implies that SpaceX
personnel operate the vehicle in the same manner as a United Airlines pilot operates an aircraft, but the
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ReedSmith May 19,2014
Page 2
Board Analysis confinns that the vehicle is preprogrammed and autonomous and the Range User (such
as SpaceX) has no ability to control the vehicle from launch to reaching orbital space.
Third, Mr. Stone states that "[t]he contractor or licensee (SpaceX) is responsible for its launch and
vehicle operation throughout the mission." Again, Mr. Stone's facts are incorrect. We agree with the
Board Analysis regarding the responsibility and authority of the Air Force (Range Safety) and the fact
that the Range User has no ability to control the vehicle after launch and from launch to when the
vehicle reaches orbital space. Ceding control of the launch vehicle to the Air Force is the hallmark of
the federal regulatory system to ensure safe conduct.
Fourth, Mr. Stone states that "[t]he RSO only [sic] has possession ofa space craft purely for safety
reasons." We observe that Mr. Stone's statement, in contrast to his other statements, correctly concedes·
that the Air Force actually takes possession of the vehicle and payload. Mr. Stone, however, wrongly
seeks to downplay the importance of safety control by implying that: (1) there are other types of control
at play during the flight mission; and, (2) such other control is more important than safety control. Mr.
Stone is wrong on both points. First, as the Board Analysis correctly concludes, the Range User has no
ability to control the vehicle from launch to reaching orbital space. Thus, Range Safety control for
safety purposes is in fact the only control that exists during the mission. Second-and at the risk of
stating the obvious-range safety is of paramount importance to any launch. Ceding control to federal
authorities is required by the federal system to ensure public safety and cannot be minimized. The
Board Analysis regarding the responsibility and authority of the Air Force (Range Safety) is correct.
Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at (213) 457-8310. Thank you for your
time and consideration.
Very truly yours,
Mardiros H. Dakessian
MHD:ih
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