SELC Files Suit Against the FAA for Withholding Spaceport Safety Assessments
Atlanta, GA—The Southern Environmental Law Center is challenging the Federal Aviation Administration for refusing to disclose important information about the risks of harm to human life and property around a proposed spaceport in Camden County.
After submitting several requests to FAA that have gone unanswered, SELC filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia late yesterday citing the federal agency’s failure to provide documents for the proposed project as required under the Freedom of Information Act.
“Ensuring the public has all of the information about any major project is critically important, especially when we’re talking about the potential for loss of life and significant damage to personal property,” said Brian Gist, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “It would be incredibly rash for Camden County and FAA to move ahead without fully disclosing the risks of this project to the public.”
Among the information requested is a risk analysis that estimates the number of human deaths that could potentially occur in the event that a rocket explodes on the launch pad or in the air.
According to FAA’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, launch failures at Spaceport Camden could be “in the 2.5 to 6 percent range.” This means that if Spaceport Camden estimates 12 launches per year, at least one rocket launch is expected to fail every two years—the impacts and the extent of which are still unknown.
Camden County is seeking a license from the FAA to construct and operate a private spaceport on the southern end of the Georgia coast. If built and used as planned, the spaceport would launch private spacecraft from an 11,000-acre site along the Satilla River. Rockets would launch directly over populated areas, including private residences on Little Cumberland Island, the Intracoastal Waterway, and Cumberland Island National Seashore.
SELC initially submitted comments on the project in January 2016 on behalf of One Hundred Miles and Satilla Riverkeeper, outlining concerns about an increase in air and noise pollution, the destruction of wetlands and compromised water quality, and safety concerns in the case of an accident.
More recently, SELC submitted comments in June to the FAA on behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association, One Hundred Miles, Center for a Sustainable Coast, Glynn Environmental Coalition, Satilla Riverkeeper, and Atlanta Audubon Society, criticizing the agency’s draft environmental impact statement for the facility in failing to properly evaluate the project’s numerous risks and to address some impacts at all, contrary to the requirements of federal law.
About Southern Environmental Law Center: For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With over 70 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org