The federal court will be examining whether SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk, should undergo expensive and lengthy environmental assessments of private launch launches to ensure Starlink’s satellite-beamed internet service.
ViaSat, a rival to SpaceX, initiated the legal battle. The case began in December 2020. ViaSat could face huge regulatory penalties if the court sides with it. This is due to the fact that the regulations are firmly earthbound.
The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) is at issue. This Nixon-era law requires federal agencies conduct thorough environmental reviews before they approve new projects. NEPA does not limit its geographical scope, even though it is clearly intended to regulate construction projects like roads and pipelines. ViaSat believes that Starlink’s permission to orbit the Earth should have been granted by the Federal Communications Commission.
How does this relate to the United States’ environment? It doesn’t.
SpaceX launch emissions are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Did Starlink must pass all NEPA checks before it is granted permission. Starlink claims that the FCC is only able to receive signals from what Starlink calls a fleet of 4,000 satellites capable of sending high-speed internet across most of the globe.
ViaSat, along with other environmental groups, are asking federal courts for a forceful review by the FCC. Their only environmental concern is Starlink satellites’ potential to cause “light pollution”.
Of course this is ridiculous. The selective use of NEPA Challenges shows that broad-based regulations and statutes are vulnerable to being weaponized by private actors, who may have more interest in commercial competition and environmental protection than they do,” states Michael Ellis (visiting fellow at Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at Heritage Foundation).
The lawsuit may still be an indicator of the federal government’s approach to a growing private space sector. Are such projects allowed to thrive, setting up a cycle of increasing wealth, new discovery, greater abundance and new opportunities? Ask lawyers for TechFreedom. This non-profit organization supports innovation without government oversight. Amicus brief urging the D.C. Circuit to deny ViaSat’s claims. “Or do they starve in the cradles of their victims of small-mindedness petty quarbling and a status-quo bias?