WASHINGTON – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas) and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Commercial Remote Sensing Regulatory Affairs. The letter requests an explanation on why federal agency representation on ACCRES is necessary, why the Department of Commerce has not held an ACCRES meeting in over one year, and a schedule and timeline for the report required by the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. This inquiry is part of continued oversight efforts of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and follows previous letters sent to NOAA regarding the licensing of private space-based remote sensing systems.
“Congress specifically directed the Department of Commerce to consult with ACCRES because Congress needs to be fully informed when considering the possible update of the 1992 Land Remote Sensing Policy Act. However, given that fact that ACCRES has not met in over a year and that ACCRES existing membership was dissolved in April, 2016, it raises serious question(s) as to whether the Department will be able to consult with ACCRES and incorporate their feedback on the Section 202 report due November 25th, 2016, in a timely fashion, and without undue influence from federal agency representatives,” the letter states.
“It also raises the question of whether the Department of Commerce has purposefully not held ACCRES meetings, dissolved ACCRES, and planned to include federal agency representation so that ACCRES is not able to provide substantive consultation on the Section 202 report,” the letter continues.
Section 202 of the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which was signed into law last November, requires the Secretary of Commerce to consult with heads of appropriate federal agencies and its Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing (ACCRES) to submit a report on statutory updates necessary to license private remote sensing space systems. Under the current statutory authorities, the Department of Commerce licenses private sector parties to operate private remote sensing space systems. This authority has not been updated since the 1992 Land Remote Sensing Policy Act.
On Feb. 17, Chairman Smith sent a letter to Secretary Pritzker requesting information on whether the Department of Commerce is considering changing the composition of members of ACCRES.
On June 6, Chairman Smith sent a letter to Secretary Pritzker following press reports that satellite imagery provider DigitalGlobe was still awaiting a license approval almost three years after submitting its initial request. The letter requested communications and documentation confirming DigitalGlobe’s application date, a timeline of the application review process, names of NOAA employees involved in the application approval process, and an explanation of why NOAA has so drastically prolonged and delayed the process.
Today’s letter can be found HERE.