WOODBINE — The Senate Study Committee on the Camden County spaceport is recommending passage of legislation “that sends a clear signal to the commercial space industry that Georgia is open for business.”
The committee held three meetings before announcing its recommendation Thursday, including one in Camden County, where it heard testimony from supporters and opponents of the Georgia Space Flight Act.
The legislation requires companies in the business of launching rockets in Georgia to train their employees so they understand the risks associated with space flight. Basically, workers in the space flight industry in Georgia will waive the right to sue the companies they work for unless gross negligence can be proven.
State Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, the bill’s sponsor, has already pre-filed similar legislation for the House to consider during the next legislative session that begins in January.
“I want to commend Chairman Bruce Thompson and the entire Senate Study Committee on the Camden County Spaceport for studying this very important issue carefully,” Spencer said. “After much study, the Senate has come to the same conclusion as the House of Representatives that moving forward on liability shield legislation to bring the commercial space industry to Georgia would set a minimum competitive standard in order for our state to compete with other space states like Florida and Texas.”
Camden County Administrator Steve Howard praised the Senate recommendation.
“To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, this report is one small step for Spaceport Camden, but one giant leap for Georgia,” he said. “There is still plenty of work to do before rockets launch from Camden County, but we look forward to working with the General Assembly to make Georgia the best place in the country for aerospace entrepreneurs to do business.”
The legislation doesn’t guarantee rockets will ever launch from the proposed site. Camden County continues to work through the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation to obtain a launch site operators license. Environmental and safety reviews are in process and a decision by the FAA is expected in 2017.
Opponents of the spaceport say it presents environmental and safety hazards to the marshes and Little Cumberland Island residents and claim the idea will not have the positive economic impact on the area that proponents of the project are hoping.