In September 2022, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a new rule changing the deorbiting timeframe for satellites ending their missions in low Earth orbit from a twenty-five-year recommendation to a five-year legal requirement. The adoption of this rule, which seeks to cultivate a sustainable orbital environment for satellites, followed the United States’ July 2022 National Orbital Debris Implementation Plan, which tasked federal agencies with reviewing the effectiveness of their orbital debris-related rules. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 2022 West Virginia v. EPA decision, however, federal rulemaking in the area of orbital debris may not survive judicial scrutiny in the absence of explicit congressional authorization to do so. The purpose of this Article is to provide arguments for why Earth’s orbital environment should be protected under the National Environmental Policy Act and to provide draft legislation that is responsive to both the Orbital Debris Plan and the Supreme Court’s recent EPA ruling, which will enable FCC rulemaking in the area of orbital debris.
Michael B. Runnels, On Launching Environmental Law into Orbit in the Age of Satellite Constellations,
J. Air L. & Com.