Feds say Spaceport Camden review ‘paused,’ Camden County files for launch license

By David Pendered

Federal authorities continue to list the status of an environmental review of the proposed spaceport on Georgia’s coast as “paused,” citing unspecified issues related to the project sponsor. That said, the sponsor has issued a statement saying it has moved the project forward by applying for a license to launch rockets.

camden paused

Federal officials have ‘paused’ the completion of the environmental impact statement for the planned spaceport in Camden County, citing factors related to the project sponsor, which is Camden County. Credit: permits.performance.gov, David Pendered

Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit regarding the environmental review languished in U.S. District Court in Atlanta during the federal government shutdown. On Jan. 28, a federal judge lifted a stay on the case that had been imposed Dec. 26, 2018.

The delay order was issued five days after a federal agency filed a response saying it still is looking for records related to an environmental review of the site. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit Oct. 15, 2018 under the federal Freedom of Information Act for information it first sought in March 2018. The SELC wants to see the results of the environmental review led by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The statement released Jan. 29 by Spaceport Camden related to the filing of request to launch rockets from the site of the planned spaceport.

The statement observed, “the successful submission of the [launch site operator license] marks more than three years of work to comply with the detailed regulatory requirements necessary to conduct orbital and suborbital launches from southeast Georgia.”

The statement included comments from two ranking members of Camden County’s board of commissioners, who were quoted along with Gov. Brian Kemp and several other former elected officials including longtime backer Newt Gingrich:

spaceport camden, logo

Camden County has applied for a federal license to launch rockets from a proposed spaceport, even while the FAA’s environmental review is on hold. File/Credit: faa.gov

  • Camden County Commission Chairman Jimmy Starline: “This is a massive milestone for Camden County. To the best of our knowledge, no local government has ever accomplished this feat.”
  • Commission Vice Chairman Gary Blount: ‘This launch site operator license application has been a strategic priority of the Board of County Commissioners for several years and we are proud to report to the citizens of Camden County that it has been submitted.’”

A website that appears to oppose the proposed space launch site observes that the county’s application is meaningless. The site, spaceportfacts.org, states of the application:

  • “It is nothing more than a PR STUNT designed for Georgia politicians while the Legislature is in session.”

Of note, Gov. Brian Kemp’s proposed budgets do not appear to contain any proposed funding for the spaceport or related projects in the proposed amendment to the budget that expires June 30, or the budget for Fiscal Year 2020, which begins July 1.

spaceport, Camden, trajectories

Rockets launched from the proposed spaceport in Camden County would soar over a portion of Cumberland Island at a height of some 30,000 feet, according to the FAA statement. File/Credit: faa.gov

The federal website noted by spaceportfacts.org provides scant information as to the reason the spaceport review process is delayed.

The pause is related to the environmental impact statement the Federal Aviation Administration is leading. Participating agencies include NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and the National Parks Service, according to information on a permitting dashboard maintained by the federal Department of Transportation.

Another DOT site lists the project status as, “Paused.” Another line on the site observes: “Primary Reason for Pause Status: Project Sponsor Factors.”

Paused is defined as follows by the dashboard:

  • “Paused – If project work is temporarily stopped due to issues beyond the control of the acting agency, a project is ‘Paused.’”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

4 replies
  1. Avatar
    Steve Weinkle says:

    Mr. Pendered and Saporta Report have described the status of the Spaceport Camden project quite accurately.

    The public has no idea how the FAA will respond to the troubled Environmental Impact Statement. Prior to the issuance of a license, the FAA must make a Finding Of No Significant Impact from the project. However, the Draft EIS has been roundly chided for errors, omissions, fiction and fabrications. There is no economic or business experience supporting the investment by taxpayers. There are questions of Constitutional taking that would be decided in Federal Court. You can read some of the more important Draft EIS Comment submissions here https://www.spaceportfacts.org/draft-eis.

    The spaceport is touted as an economic engine for southeast Georgia and the State. “Builld It And Hope They’ll Come” seems to be the driving directive. Yet, there has been no evidence that existing rocket companies seek to use the proposed spaceport since there is ample active and dormant capacity at existing spaceports. In every case, US spaceports require taxpayer subsidies. In every case, decisions are made politically applying the sunken cost fallacy: “We own it and no politician wants to admit the mistake.”

    Plain and simple: Spaceport Camden is an unprecedented environmental and safety risk to Cumberland and Little Cumberland Islands with no discernible benefits except for the consultants, lawyers, lobbyists who are located mostly out of Georgia.

    More and more, the spaceport appears to be carried by induced judgment errors—chiefly, errors arising from imperfect information and cognitive biases.Report

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Terri Keller says:

    Would you want “space rockets” launched over your home and family? That’s what will happen to the residents of Little Cumberland Island if Spaceport Camden is approved. It’s a mystery why the FAA pushed this particular project so hard, knowing that there are federal rules against launching rockets over occupied private property. NASA engineer, Richard Thornburg, said, if the project did get approved, rockets could crash into the City of St. Marys and Interstate 95! Spaceport Scamden is going nowhere fast, and will remain a “pie in the sky idea” until county officials decide it’s time to admit that they were misled, and move on.Report

    Reply

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