A member of the Republican leadership of the House said Tuesday he supports an extension of a provision that limits the ability of the FAA to enact commercial spaceflight safety regulations. In an op-ed published in the Daily Independent newspaper in Ridgecrest, California, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) discusses commercial spaceflight, in particular activities at Mojave Air and Space Port, located in his district. “It’s clear that the private sector is ready and willing to step up to keep America at the forefront of space flight,” he writes.
He adds, though, that he’s concerned that regulation could impede future growth of the industry, citing in particular the provision in the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act (CSLAA) of 2004 that prevents the FAA from enacting safety regulations except for cases linked to the “serious or fatal injury” of crew or participants, or events that “posed a high risk” of such injuries, during licensed or permitted flights. The expiration of that provision this December, he claims, “could mean a whole slew of new regulations on the growing $34 billion commercial space flight industry.” (The source of the $34-billion valuation for the industry isn’t cited.)
“There is no question that the safety of crew members and the public is of utmost importance, but unleashing Washington bureaucrats on this industry now could mean the end of private commercial space flight in America before it even gets off the ground,” he concludes. “That is why I am fighting to extend the 2004 provisions.” He doesn’t specify how he’ll seek to extend that regulatory restriction, but as noted here last week, the House version of an FAA reauthorization bill does provide an extension. A final version of the bill is expected to be completed in the coming weeks after House and Senate negotiators hammer out differences between their versions (the Senate version does not contain an extension) after reaching a deal last week on labor language that held up the bill for months.
Should the CSLAA provision not make it into the final FAA reauthorization bill, though, there may be additional opportunities before December 23 to include it in other legislation. For example, Congress will have to take up later this year another extension of commercial launch indemnification, as the current regime expires at the end of this year.