Camden County, Ga. sued over documents withheld about Spaceport risks

Cumberland Island National Seashore is a barrier island off the coast of Georgia known for its maritime forest of live oaks. (© Beth Maynard Finch)

UPDATE 9/18/20 — SELC filed ammended complaints in its ongoing lawsuit against Camden County and Spaceport Camden consultant Andrew Nelson for failing to meet requirements under the Georgia Open Records Act. This follows years of ignored requests for public records. Click here for more details. 

As proponents of Spaceport Camden continue to push the controversial project forward despite mounting questions concerning public safety and environmental impacts, local residents are demanding answers about the potential dangers to nearby communities and sensitive ecosystems.

Today SELC filed suit on behalf of One Hundred Miles in Camden County Superior Court against Camden County and Spaceport Camden consultants for failing to meet requirements under the Georgia Open Records Act (GORA).

After refusing to grant repeated requests for specific documents, including debris field maps and an analysis estimating the number of human deaths that could occur if a rocket explodes on the launch pad or in the air, the county has continued to forge ahead with Spaceport Camden.

Without releasing any of the requested public safety information, the Camden County Commission submitted an application with the Federal Aviation Administration in late January for an operator license required to conduct orbital and suborbital launches at the proposed commercial spaceport.

“Camden County’s refusal to provide public records about the potential dangers of launching rockets is mindboggling,” said April Lipscomb, staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Georgia office. “Asking local residents to blindly accept the potentially life-changing conditions of Spaceport Camden without providing them with all of the facts is reckless and unfair.”

Local residents also weighed in.

“Officials elected to the office of County Commission are acting as if they are not accountable to the public,” said Ben Goff, a resident of Kingsland. “It appears they are constantly looking for more ways to conceal information relevant to the health and safety of their own constituents--this has to stop.”

“Citizens make good decisions only when those in leadership give them truthful, complete information,” said Jackie Eichorn, a resident of Harriet’s Bluff. “As citizens of Camden County, our leaders have denied us lawful transparency since 2015 by shrouding critical details in secrecy and inaccurate information to advance Spaceport Camden, a project that leaves us with more questions than answers.”

The spaceport proposal would create a private, commercial launch pad for rocket launches with a launch trajectory directly over residences and Cumberland Island National Seashore.

“While we have long been concerned that this project poses serious threats to public health and the local economy of Camden County, the lack of transparency about the real risks of Spaceport Camden only deepens those concerns,” said Megan Desrosiers, Executive Director of One Hundred Miles. “The notion that coastal communities can and should accept that rockets will be launched over one of the most economically and ecologically important areas for the state of Georgia without knowing exactly what those risks look like is absurd.”

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