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FAA and Camden Are Complicit In DEIS Failure to Disclose

A document has surfaced in a public records request proving that Spaceport Camden facilitators and the FAA worked in concert in 2016 to avoid public disclosure of hazardous sites in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Camden and the FAA knew in 2016 that the Bayer property has hazardous environmental sites.

“Baer [sic] will not give FAA specific info on what kind of contaminants/hazards are present – but defined several ‘boxes’ giving general locations with generalized hazard ‘pesticide’, ‘unexploded munitions’, etc. Will not release the Environmental Baseline Report.” Source Link: August 24, 2016 FAA Meeting notes

The formal and contemporaneous notes of the August 24, 2016 meeting indicate that Camden and the FAA constructed a plan to defer public notification of known hazardous areas in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. This effort was fully realized when specific environmental Bayer hazard information Camden and the FAA had obtained by 2016 was intentionally omitted from the March 2018 Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Those omissions can only be justified as an attempt to circumvent public notification and to avoid public comment about the site where dangerous pesticides and munitions were manufactured and tested.

Camden and the FAA were unable to get information from Bayer allowing them to investigate known hazardous sites in 2016.

“Leidos and CRA expressed concern that they do not want to endanger their staff by digging in an area where they do not know what contaminants or hazards might be present.” Source Link: August 24, 2016, FAA Meeting notes

The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) is the all-encompassing group of federal laws that require full disclosure of environmental risks from major federal projects like the licensing of Spaceport Camden. The FAA must obey NEPA requirements. The FAA’s responsibilities in NEPA actions are expressly defined as that of an informed, unbiased judge that is the primary protector of the public’s safety. The FAA is charged with full responsibility for the accuracy and content of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

The August 24, 2016, meeting notes prove that the FAA has acted otherwise. The FAA has had its pro-spaceport thumb on the scales from the beginning. The FAA allowed the Spaceport Camden project to move forward despite Camden’s inability to obtain necessary environmental disclosures and studies on the Bayer portion of the Spaceport. The meeting notes tell us that Bayer proposed to sell the property to Camden “as is” without providing an Environmental Baseline Report or allowing testing of environmentally suspect areas until after the sale was completed.

The FAA’s bias and secret efforts propelled the project forward with the intended plan that Camden would purchase the property, then they could inspect what we had bought to make environmental determinations if space launch activities risked environmental catastrophe. That is the inverse of what NEPA laws require. The study must be done BEFORE the decisions are made. The FAA’s plan permits the risks of unknown dangerous or hazardous environmental materials to be transferred from deep-pocketed companies Union Carbide(Dow) and Bayer to become new generational liabilities for Camden County taxpayers. That risk can destroy our property values and tax base preventing responsible growth in Camden for decades. The FAA and Spaceport Camden’s promoters are clearly conflicted. Taxpayers are being treated as though we are stockholders expecting risk just because we live and invest in Camden County.

The meeting’s discussions subjects were “contamination” on the Bayer site, and historic “graveyards” located within the hazard areas of the proposed launch pad. The document has two authors. The typed section is the meeting notes taken by the FAA’s environmental support contractor. The meeting lead was Stacey Zee, the FAA’s Environmental Specialist. The handwritten notes are the contemporaneous meeting record taken by Jennifer Bedell of the Georgia State Historic Preservation Office. Contemporaneous notes are documentary evidence of what was said or observed. These were produced by the observer in the course of their work, and are dated and signed. Contemporaneous notes are viewed as especially credible evidence of conversations in court proceedings.

Bayer did not want to disclose hazardous environmental information to Camden and the FAA.

The FAA's record contains this incredibly alarming statement: “Camden County's General Counsel has been supporting CRA's efforts to obtain information about hazards and contaminants on the Bayer site and Bayer has agreed to provide specific information orally, provided no written record of the conversation is maintained.” Source Link: August 24, 2016 Meeting notes

Camden’s acceptance of this condition is irresponsible and possibly borders on malfeasance. But more specifically, the FAA knowingly allowed the Spaceport Draft EIS preparers to entirely omit discussion of the hazardous portions of the Bayer property required for the spaceport. These omissions thwarted the public’s right to comment required under the NEPA Act, thus improperly substituting the FAA’s future judgment for legislated public participation.

The FAA had a "work-around" that bypassed NEPA transparency requirements:

The FAA proposed a “work-around” that avoided public disclosure of the environmental risks.

Ms. Zee told the meeting participants that the FAA has done it before, “It may be possible to write into the Programmatic Agreement (PA) that if the County determines the site [after purchase] is viable to develop a launch site on, then a Phase I assessment would be conducted for the area that CRA [Camden’s consultant] was not able to access earlier. Stacey stated that the FAA has used this process on other projects, in different states.” Source Link: August 24, 2016 Meeting notes

Recently, spaceport skeptics discovered through open records disclosures that Camden has signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement with Bayer. However, due to Camden’s insistence on secrecy, investigators have been unable to obtain information about any agreements or options to purchase, or of any payments already made to Bayer. IS A PURCHASE OF THE CONTAMINATED PROPERTY IMMINENT? It is clear the Bayer property has been in the FAA and Camden’s sights for several years though there were intentional omissions of their knowledge in the DEIS.

The contemporaneous and typed notes are consistent in indicating intent by FAA and consultants to incorporate only the Union Carbide property in the DEIS. It's clear that the FAA would assist Camden in delaying environmental discovery on the Bayer piece until after Camden had purchased the property. The public has been intentionally kept in the dark about Spaceport Camden because it allows the otherwise unsustainable project to continue forward. Despite its legal obligations to protect the public and to include the public in the process, we now know the FAA has formally distributed legal documents with known, and even intentional, errors, fiction, and omissions. The potential FAA conflicts of interest demonstrated in the Spaceport Camden project have been addressed in multiple General Accounting Office reports to Congress with the FAA assuring our elected representatives that such conflicts do not exist. Spaceport Camden observers know differently.

If the FAA has a less reprehensible explanation for its behavior, that reasoning has been concealed by the agency's own willful secrecy and provable bad actions.

We have a new, old saying in southeast Georgia: “If it squeals like a pig, and eats (taxes) like a pig, it must be Spaceport Camden.” It’s time to cut bacon.

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