Lawsuit claims Camden County withheld Spaceport documents from environmentalists, residents

Environmental groups and Camden County homeowners are suing the county, saying officials are illegally withholding documents related to a proposed commercial launch pad on the coast of Georgia.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, coastal conservation group One Hundred Miles has accused Camden County and consultants working on the proposed launch pad of refusing to provide documents that specify any hazards of having rocket launches over nearby residential property.

The lawsuit claims the county is violating the Georgia Open Records Act.

In a statement, members of the Camden County Commission said the requested details were compiled for the county by a private company and provided to the U.S. Department of Defense.

“Disclosing that methodology would put U.S. national security at risk and it is therefore exempt from (open records requests) and will not be disclosed,” the commissioners said.

Southern Environmental Law Center attorney April Lipscomb, on behalf of the environmentalists, called the county’s refusal to share the documents “mindboggling.”

“Asking local residents to blindly accept the potentially life-changing conditions of Spaceport Camden without providing them with all of the facts is reckless and unfair,” Lipscomb said.

Spaceport officials are courting private companies to launch up to 12 times a year from the proposed site.

Residents and property owners on nearby Cumberland Island and Little Cumberland Island said they are concerned about having rockets launch so close to their homes.

In its draft environmental impact statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said there was a 2.5 percent to 6 percent chance of a launch failure. The FAA has not yet finalized its environmental impact statement.

The Camden County Commission submitted an application with the FAA last month for a license to operate the commercial spaceport.

Camden will still have to clear several steps, including a separate safety review, before it could be awarded a permit for the project.