The Space Show and Harmful Contamination. I am looking forward to being on The Space Show with Dr. David Livingstone this Sunday at 3 p.m. EDT. We will be talking about the applicability of the harmful contamination provision of Article IX of the Outer Space Treaty to the U.S. commercial sector. As noted in this post, the treaty’s restrictions on harmful contamination apply to government rather than private actors in outer space.
NOAA. As we have seen with other regulatory agencies, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is requesting comments, in accordance with the President’s Executive Orders directing it to do so, on how it may streamline its regulations and guidance. Specifically, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service and National Ocean Service request comment on their regulations and guidance. These Services administer laws that protect the environment, such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act. You may ask what this has to do with space law.
What this has to do with space law is that when the FAA issues a license to launch a launch vehicle or reenter a reentry vehicle, or to operate a launch or reentry site, that license is a “major federal action” under the National Environmental Policy Act, which means that the license applicant must provide extensive information to the FAA for the preparation of an environmental impact statement or assessment. Part of that information must show how the applicant will comply with the various environmental laws on the books, including those listed above. Applicants for site licenses spend a lot of money on these reviews. Accordingly, if you are a licensee or an applicant, now is your chance to have input on the regulations and guidance that implement those laws.
If you comment, you should, as NOAA strongly urges in its notice, follow a few protocols. They will make your comments easier to understand and be more persuasive and thus more effective. Cite to the specific provision in NOAA’s guidance or the Code of Federal Regulations. Explain the burden it imposes. Don’t just say it’s a burden, explain what harm it does and why and how. Even better, explain why the requirement is unnecessary or duplicative of another requirement. Maybe they’re both unnecessary. Do say why. The more detail you provide the better. Bald assertions that something is harmful won’t get you very far. When you are talking to an agency who thinks that its requirement is necessary, you have to do more than say, “nuh, uh.” That is what is called a legally insufficient comment and the agency may ignore it.
Comments due: August 21, 2017