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Spaceport Camden: FAA moves ahead with review; negotiates over releasing environmental reports

spaceport camden, aerial Camden 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.

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 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:

spaceport, state locator map, edit

Georgia’s proposed spaceport would be located in Camden County, near the Florida border and east of I-95. File/Credit: faa.gov

  • “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.”

 

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David Pendered

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.

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2 Comments

  1. Steve Weinkle July 5, 2019 10:06 am

    After spending almost $4 million on consultants, lawyers and PR guys, Camden submitted its incomplete FAA Application prematurely in January. The obvious reason for jumping the gun was to influence Camden’s representatives in the State legislature to reinforce their support for Camden’s Spaceport Authority Bill. Camden knew by mid-February that the FAA had denied the application. That was well before the legislature voted on Camden’s bill. Camden’s PR Stunt achieved its goal of fooling our elected officials into thinking everything was moving ahead on the spaceport.

    The spaceport is a bad deal for Camden and Georgia taxpayers. It might be a ‘feather in someone’s cap’ but for taxpayers, we’ll be assuming the liability of owning Union Carbide’s contaminated land. The State will have to release it’s Environmental Covenant that is presently backed by the multi-billion dollar financial resources of Dow/Dupont/Union Carbide. Camden can’t afford it, so the state and Feds will have to jump in and pay to protect the environment when the first rocket explosion causes massive environmental damage to Cumberland Island or our Coastal marshes. The insurance costs alone to Camden County will exceed the amount budgeted annually for public works.

    It’s astounding that after 3-1/2 ears of preparation, Camden submitted a bogus application missing the key information on the show-stopper issues. Shame on them from hiding the truth from citizens. Thanks to the SaportaReport for digging deeply for the truth.Report

    Reply
  2. Bob September 11, 2019 10:23 am

    I do think the whole dog & pony show is to bilk the Camden County tax payers. To date I read that $6.7 MILLION has been spent. I see no accounting of it anywhere. I believe the county commissioners office deserves a complete audit. No land purchased, no equipment purchased. No actual work anyone can “see” completed. I personally believe it’s a scam.Report

    Reply

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