- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 16, 2020

WOODBINE, Ga. (AP) - Federal officials plan to announce whether they will allow a small-rocket spaceport in coastal Georgia in March.

The Federal Aviation Administration, in a new statement reported by The Brunswick News, says it won’t reopen public comment because Camden County commissioners now only seek permission for smaller rockets.

The county amended its application to allow for only small-lift rockets in January. The FAA said its 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.”

The FAA had previously planned an additional public comment period in January 2021.

The federal agency also said they were influenced by an executive order by President Donald Trump to streamline approvals for any infrastructure investments that will strengthen the economy.

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 environmental procedures.

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, she said, despite opponents who fear rockets with a poor safety record flying over their homes on Cumberland and Little Cumberland islands.

“The draft EIS is deeply flawed,” Kearns said. “This debacle is shocking to me. I think it will have a huge impact how this goes down.”

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