Spaceport Camden FEIS Is A Hot Mess

Does it make you feel like we’re in good hands to know that for the past 2 weeks, the Georgia DNR, the Coast Guard, and the National Park Service have all allowed a wrecked shrimp boat to break up on Cumberland National Seashore’s south jetty while they await the boat owner to agree to clean up the mess --- diesel engines, nets, and all? At the peak of turtle nesting season. Private citizens on jet skis have been recovering wreckage as best they can. And after spending nearly a BILLION dollars, the Golden Ray salvage operation struggles into its second hurricane season.



Meanwhile, the Spaceport Camden Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) assures us:

Any debris landing in tidally‐influenced marsh or State waters out to 3 miles would be recovered when feasible and may require authorization from and coordination with the GDNR Coastal Resources Division.

Brunswick’s Golden Ray shipwreck and the Cumberland Island shrimp boat wreck are examples of how our governments respond to environmental accidents. Those easily foreseeable accidents, though rare, are two of the three that have happened in the past year in our region. The 2018 Spaceport Camden Draft Environmental Impact Statement identified a 2.5% to 6% failure rate for the mature rockets originally planned for Spaceport Camden. Spaceport Camden has paid "spaceport subject matter expert" Andrew Nelson more than one million dollars for consultation that once included assurances to the Georgia House Science and Technology Commercial Space Subcommittee that rocket launches enjoyed a success rate of 99.30% (0.7% failure rate). More recently, the FAA submitted documents to Georgia DNR showing a

10% or 20% rocket failure rate for Spaceport Camden's shrunken, fictional rocket.

  • Fantastically, the Final EIS altogether fails to state ROCKET FAILURE RATES.

  • Fantastically, the Final EIS altogether fails to study the environmental impacts of a rocket failure over Georgia.

Now, the FAA doesn't declare an accident rate in the FEIS … except for this:

The words "failure rate" appear ONE TIME in the 434-page FEIS. Without an rocket failure rate attached.


GENERAL HUMAN SAFETY:

Then, on FEIS Appendix page 1863, there is this incredible misuse of statistics: “FAA disagrees with the commenter’s assertion that operating a commercial spaceport is incompatible with the protection of Cumberland Island Wilderness Area.”

The FAA CLAIMS: “Over the past 25 years there have been no fatalities, injuries, or significant property damage to the uninvolved public from commercial space launch activities licensed or permitted and monitored by the FAA.”

That statement is repeated EIGHT times in the FEIS!


FACT: The FAA has never killed anyone or damaged private property because, until Spaceport Camden, they have never knowingly approved a launch over the uninvolved public or private property. An FAA-licensed rocket has never killed a Martian, either.






THE HAZARDOUS SITE:

Pages 3-47 through 3-58 describe the known hazardous waste and munitions disposal sites on the property Camden County taxpayers will own (red arrows).

Everything in the blue outline is now owned by Union Carbide (we think, but more on that later).

Georgia Wildlife Management Areas are highlighted in Yellow. This image is shown for the first time in the 2021 FEIS:

On Page A-1797, we are told, “According to Camden County, there is a current option agreement for the Union Carbide Corporation property and negotiations with Union Carbide Corporation and Bayer CropScience are ongoing.”

The way the FAA describes the spaceport property is quite Orwellian:

“According to Camden County, Union Carbide would retain title to the RCRA landfill and the buffer area around the landfill. […] Camden County would acquire the remainder of the former UCC industrial property, which would be carved-out from the RCRA landfill portion of the property prior to transfer to Camden County.”

Union Carbide keeps 58-acres (identified by the BLACK ARROW), Camden taxpayers acquire the remaining 4,000-acres, but that 98.5% of the entire property is called a “carve-out”!


We’re told the public is not to worry about the explosives and munitions because only spaceport workers and contractors will be at risk and they will be trained to protect themselves. And there will be warning signs.


This warm and fuzzy statement is found on page 3-57:

“Preliminary investigations have also identified 10 additional sites that may be potentially contaminated within the Bayer CropScience property. These sites are identified with the name of the suspected contaminant(s): (1) sanitary wastewater disposal; (2) gas/diesel compounds/benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX); (3) pesticides; (4) BTEX; (5) munitions waste; (6) munitions waste; (7) acids and pesticides; (8) pesticides; (9) munitions/rocket fuel waste; and (10) pesticides.”

The known Bayer hazardous sites each cover 2 to 30-acres and are not marked on the FEIS map. The FEIS tells us, “Detailed information on the presence of hazardous constituents is unavailable from by [sic] Bayer CropScience. Thorough site investigations would be required prior to ground disturbance, and appropriate land restrictions and remediation would be identified in coordination with State regulators.” Bayer CropScience now owns this hot mess. But our wise Camden County Commissioners are willing to relieve Bayer of that immeasurable liability.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:

Economic Development is mentioned 7 times in the FEIS as the Spaceport’s primary function and justification, and environmentally preferred alternatives are not considered because the launch site must be in Camden County, yet the FAA makes this statement on page A-1816:

A comprehensive analysis of the entire space industry and the viability of Camden County’s economic pursuits is outside the scope of the FAA’s mandate to analyze the potential impacts of providing Camden County a license to operate a spaceport. Camden County is responsible for conducting its own due diligence associated with economic development within county limits.

Nowhere in the FEIS’s 3,000 pages is there any evidence that Spaceport Camden, and commercial spaceports in general, provide economic boosts to the taxpayers who subsidize them.


In fact, there are these alarming statements on page 2-38 about criteria for launch site selection:

“The site acquisition and development costs must be affordable for the County, cost competitive in relation to other potential sites, and have an anticipated timeline pursuant to the commercial need envisioned by the project (i.e., reasonably developable within approximately 24 months after approval of a Vehicle Operator License application).”

CAMDEN CLAIMS: “The selected site meets this criteria. Acquisition and development costs are affordable for the County and are cost competitive in relation to the other potential sites evaluated […] Additionally, the site can be reasonably developed within approximately 24 months after approval of a Vehicle Operator License application. “

There are two enormous problems with the above statement.

ONE: Camden County has not received the blessing from taxpayers to spend whatever it takes to acquire and develop the Union Carbide site. There simply is no budget and almost a million dollars a year have been spent just on the Final Environmental study. We own nothing and have built nothing.

TWO: The Vehicle Operator License is ANOTHER license that will be required once a real rocket company with a real rocket can launch. They're telling us that it will take up to two years to build out after another FEIS is performed for the actual Rocket Operator License. This FEIS is for a notional (fictional, theoretical, hypothetical) rocket that is not operational or under active development. No rockets can launch until the rocket is known, and licensed. Eventually, when a real rocket company decides it wants to risk launching over Cumberland Island National Seashore, the EIS process we’ve been going through must be repeated.


But we will have owned the Union Carbide and Bayer properties for several, or many, years, or decades, before we have any chance for “economic development.”

Two years ago, Commissioner Gary Blount opined, “We do not have endless money to work with. No. But we have enough. And we feel like we’re at the point where enough is what will get it done” (WABE)

That money comes from Camden County taxpayers’ wallets.

ABOUT THE “JOBS”:

In 2018, County Commissioner Gary Blount suggested to Georgia Public Radio that a spaceport could be something to attract young people like his son. “He lives in Charlotte,” he said. “Why? Because that’s where the opportunities are.” Blount’s son later moved to South Carolina where we hope he’s successful in his career as a “wealth advisor.” So what do spaceports have to do with where Gary’s son lives? Only Gary knows.


The 2021 FEIS claims:

“An estimated 77 full-time personnel would be required to support operations. The new jobs would represent an increase of less than 1 percent of total county employment.”

The 77 full-time jobs was estimated when SpaceX-size rockets and 1st stage landings were included in the spaceport pans in 2018. But now, it is small rockets transported here in a container accompanied by 5 staff from the rocket company. However, Camden holds to the 77 jobs. Kodiak spaceport has FOUR full-time spaceport staff in their 2021 budget! Their weather balloon handler also clean the offices. Virginia's Wallops Commercial spaceport doesn't report staff numbers, but they lost $34 million in the past two years:


Spaceport Camden would have to add 225,000 residents to provide the comparative “opportunities” Blount’s son has in York County, SC. Spaceport promoters will say anything to justify their galactic vision.

THE INEVITABLE ROCKET ACCIDENT:

The public has not seen the 5 criteria established by the Department of Defense to ensure Kings Bay operations are not impacted. However, we have seen abut 40 pages of correspondence between Camden’s consultants and the DOD. This page mentions the Flight Safety/Termination System required to stop a wayward rocket from hitting Kings Bay:


The Flight Safety/Termination System either blows up the rocket using ordnance or shuts off the rocket motors, so the rocket falls to earth. Either way, 100% of the debris fragments fall in Camden County.

The document is quite interesting because it explains what a Flight Safety/Termination System does to minimize risks to the Navy, and similarly to Saint Marys, Cumberland Island or Jekyll Islands, and Dover Bluff or Harrietts Bluff.


The FTS guarantees that 100% of the rocket fragments land in Camden County, possibly starting fires, contaminating our tidewaters, and maybe even killing an “authorized person” camping on Cumberland Island or gabbing on their porch.


There is NO analysis in the Final Environmental Impact Statement of a rocket accident over Georgia.

The spaceport increasingly looks like a scam. Of course, they can always launch space balloons.

Really. More on that soon.

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