Conservation groups sue FAA over Spaceport Camden license
WOODBINE, Ga.—Today, on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association and One Hundred Miles, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a complaint in federal district court challenging the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to issue an operating license for Spaceport Camden, a proposed commercial spaceport on the Georgia coast located immediately inland from Cumberland Island National Seashore. Spaceport Camden is the closest spaceport to downrange populated areas ever licensed by the FAA.
The FAA issued Spaceport Camden’s license in December 2021 despite lacking key information on the facility’s operations and failing to properly evaluate its harmful impacts on public health, private property, and the environment. For the past seven years, the FAA has ignored requests by local residents, park visitors, and the Department of the Interior to fully evaluate the effects of failed launches on Cumberland Island National Seashore and its visitors.
Further, the FAA refused to revisit its environmental review of Spaceport Camden after the project was changed to focus on more failure-prone small rockets. In an internal email, the FAA admitted that the law required the agency to “revise the existing Draft [Environmental Impact Statement] to outline the potential environmental impacts from the change in the scope of the proposed project.” But after acknowledging that the law required it, the FAA chose to move forward without this revised environmental review.
Among other laws, the Complaint cites the FAA’s failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Seashore’s enabling legislation, and the FAA’s own regulations.
“Cumberland Island National Seashore is the largest maritime wilderness on the U.S. eastern seaboard. This national park site was designated by an act of Congress to protect sensitive wildlife and priceless history. It was not protected so private companies could fire off rockets next to its shores,” said Emily Jones, Southeast Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association: “Rockets launched from the proposed site endanger park staff, visitors, and resources, as well as the lifeblood of a thriving local tourist economy. Science, economics and common sense indicate Camden County’s proposed spaceport lacks merit.”
“By not requiring a supplemental EIS, the FAA has caused massive uncertainty for businesses in Glynn and Camden Counties. Charter boat captains, commercial fishermen, and tourists hoping to visit and enjoy our rivers, marshes, and offshore ocean could likely have their plans thwarted because of evacuations for launch events or catastrophes due to launch failures,” said Megan Desrosiers, president and CEO of One Hundred Miles. “Without an accurate analysis of the environmental impacts of Spaceport Camden, no one can be sure what to expect or how their lives or incomes will be affected. “
“Since plans to construct Spaceport Camden were conceived, the FAA’s review of the license application has been fraught with factual inaccuracies and legal errors,” said Brian Gist, SELC Senior Attorney. ”These laws exist to protect our natural resources, and given the risk Spaceport Camden poses to a national treasure like Cumberland Island, the FAA needs to take its legal obligations seriously.”
About One Hundred Miles: One Hundred Miles is a nonprofit conservation organization with a mission of protecting and preserving Georgia’s 100-mile coast through advocacy, education, and public engagement. Founded in 2013, OHM is the only organization focused on combatting the multiple threats to Georgia’s entire 100-mile coast and promoting the significance of its robust wildlife, vast landscapes, and vibrant communities. Our team of ten employees works out of offices in Savannah and Brunswick to empower citizens to fight poor decision-making that threatens our coast and to participate in important community dialogues about growth, sea level rise, economic development, and conservation. OneHundredMiles.org
About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org