Warnock Asks Feds To Slow Down Review Of Spaceport Camden
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., is urging the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to slow down its review of a plan to build a commercial spaceport in southeastern Georgia.
In a letter to the federal agency dated Monday, Warnock raised concerns about the FAA’s review of the environmental impacts of the proposed Spaceport Camden.
The FAA is expected to release a final environmental impact statement on the project by the end of this month and decide by the end of next month whether to grant Spaceport Camden a launch site operator license.
Warnock indicated in his letter he has heard from a number of Georgians that the FAA’s review has been inadequate, particularly since the Camden County Commission changed the project’s initial design from launching medium-to-large rockets to small rockets.
The county’s revised application revealed that 20% of small rockets launched from Spaceport Camden would likely fail, a much larger failure rate than would occur with medium-to-large rockets, the senator wrote.
“Spaceport Camden would be located … immediately inland from Cumberland Island National Seashore,” Warnock wrote. “One of the largest protected barrier islands on the Eastern Seaboard, Cumberland Island is a jewel of the National Park System.
“Every year, tens of thousands of people travel from across the country to experience its pristine beaches, maritime forests, unique wildlife and the solitude of its wildernesses.”
Warnock also noted that a number of private homes and historic sites are located on Cumberland and Little Cumberland islands.
The FAA announced in May of last year that it would prepare a revised environmental impact statement to reflect the design changes.
But the agency reversed course last September and announced it would skip the revised review, based on an executive order from then-President Donald Trump aimed at streamlining such reviews to accelerate job creation during the coronavirus pandemic. Supporters say Spaceport Camden would generate up to 2,000 jobs, many of them high-paying.
In his letter, Warnock noted that President Joe Biden has revoked Trump’s executive order and issued a new order requiring the FAA to make decisions based on science.
“This is not the time to cut corners on environmental review or cut out public participation in the evaluation of this project,” Warnock wrote. “The incoming FAA leadership should be given the opportunity to evaluate fully these issues with the benefit of public input before moving forward with a final decision.”
John Simpson, a spokesman for Spaceport Camden, could not be reached immediately for comment.
This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Capitol Beat News Service.