Spaceport Camden: FAA moves ahead with review; negotiates over releasing environmental reportsCamden County leaders intend to build a commercial spaceport and launch rockets that would pass over a portion of Cumberland Island. File/Credit: faa.gov
By David Pendered
The FAA has decided it has enough information to review the launch permit application for Spaceport Camden – including environmental information. This occurs even as an environmental law group continues to fight the FAA in federal court in Atlanta for a full accounting of potential environmental hazards of proposed rocket launches over Cumberland Island National Seashore.
The FAA notified Camden County in a letter dated June 28 that the FAA review of the county’s application to launch rockets will be complete before the end of 2019.
The FAA letter states the county provided on June 19 the FAA with the information that was lacking from an initial launch application. One piece of missing information was what the FAA described as, “environmental review.”
Meantime, a federal judge in Atlanta has ordered the FAA to provide the Southern Environmental Law Center with certain information the SELC seeks. The SELC filed a lawsuit against the FAA seeking to compel it to provide the documents under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
According to the lawsuit filed Oct. 15, 2018 in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, the SELC sought documents from the FAA related to:
- “[E]nvironmental impacts and risks to human life of launching rockets over populated areas and critical natural resources from a proposed commercial spaceport on the Georgia coast.”
The lawsuit observes that a draft environmental impact study observed that debris from rocket launches, “would be expected to impact within the launch site boundary, or on land or in water within the hazard area.” However, the draft study did not identify the geographic limits of the “hazard area,” the lawsuit contends.
In an order dated June 18, U.S District Judge Leigh Martin May set a series of deadlines for the SELC and FAA to provide each other with information related to the SELC’s request. The final deadline is Sept. 9.
The schedule the judge approved was submitted by U.S. District Attorney Byung J. Pak on June 17. Pak filed this extension of a filing deadline on behalf of the FAA and SELC and observed the parties are close to reaching agreement on the information the FAA can release:
- “The Parties believe that the additional time will allow the number of disputed documents and legal issues to be reduced prior to the Parties filing motions for summary judgment.”
Camden County filed additional information with the FAA following a negative response in February to its application for a permit to launch rockets.
The FAA determined Feb. 12 that it lacked enough information to review the county’s application for a launch permit. The FAA requested information in four areas:
- “Environmental review;
- “Mitigation of potential risk of fire;
- “Analysis of individual risk;
- “The ability to account for and manage the population that might be exposed to risk from over flight of a launch vehicle.”
As the FAA letter observes:
- “We received the additional information on June 19, 2019.
- “We have completed our initial review of the additional information, and found that your application is now complete enough for us to accept and to start the 180-day review period as of June19, 2019. We are reviewing your application and anticipate making a license determination, in accordance with 14 CFR § 413.15, on or before December 16, 2019.”