The public has spoken for the last time on the Federal Aviation Administration’s pending decision on a license to operate a spaceport in Camden County.
A final decision on the request from Camden County commissioners for a license to establish a spaceport will be announced in March without an additional public comment period, according to an announcement by the FAA.
Initially, the FAA planned to release a revised draft Environment Impact Statement (EIS) for a 45-day public comment period in January 2021. But when the county amended its application last January to launch only small-lift rockets, another comment period was no longer necessary, according to the FAA.
In a released statement, the FAA said the revised analysis has “confirmed that all potential environmental impacts of the small-lift launch vehicles are subsumed within the potential impacts of the medium-large lift class vehicle as described in draft EIS, issued in March 2018.”
Another factor in the decision not to hold another public comment period is an executive order which allows projects that will generate jobs and benefit the economy to commence.
The executive order states to “take all appropriate steps to use their lawful emergency authorities and other authorities to respond to the national emergency and to facilitate the nation’s economic recovery...” and to “take all reasonable measures to speed infrastructure investments and to speed other actions in addition to such investments that will strengthen the economy and return Americans to work, while providing appropriate protection for public health and safety, natural resources, and the environment, as required by law.”
The executive order specifically directs all federal agencies “to use, to the fullest extent possible and consistent with applicable law, emergency procedures, statutory exemptions, categorical exclusions, analyses that have already been completed, and concise and focused analyses, consistent with NEPA, CEQ’s NEPA regulations, and agencies’ NEPA procedures.”
FAA officials said they believe that expediting the environmental review process for the Camden spaceport “furthers the interests” of the executive order.
Alex Kearns, chair of St. Marys EarthKeepers, said the executive order preventing the public from commenting on the FAA’s decision “muzzles the public.” The decision means a stronger likelihood the county will be granted a license despite the many concerns voiced by opponents who are concerned about rockets with a poor safety record flying over their homes on Cumberland and Little Cumberland islands.
“The draft EIS is deeply flawed,” she said. “This debacle is shocking to me. I think it will have a huge impact how this goes down.”