Rocketry Hobbyists versus the BATFE

Way back in the late 90's, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives woke up grumpy one morning and decided to classify the engines used in model rocketry as "explosives", thus bringing those materials under their regulatory purview.  As anyone familiar with government knows, the more an agency regulates, the larger that agency's budget.  There's a built-in incentive to regulate more... and more... and more.  Normally, to increase an agency's regulatory authority, the agency has to convince Congress to pass a law doing so.  But if they are feeling especially grumpy they can try to reclassify something themselves, simply by issuing a new regulation under their present grants of authority.

That's how rocket engines became classified as explosives, after decades of safe, sane very-very-low-orbit insertions.  The BATFE woke up one day and said they were now explosives, subject to BATFE regulations, and you can just quit shooting those things into the air right away now. 

Makes you just squirm for the chance to issue regulations, doesn't it?  Mmmm, power.  Nothing like making little kids cry and science teachers swear to make a bureaucrat smile.

Well, the National Association of Rocketry wasn't about to take that sitting down.  They filed suit.  And on Friday, Febuary 10th, 2006, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision.  And what a decision!
"The problem in this case is that ATFE's explanation for its determination that APCP deflagrates lacks any coherence. We therefore owe no deference to ATFE's purported expertise because we cannot discern it. ATFE has neither laid out a concrete standard for classifying materials along the burn-deflagrate-detonate continuum, nor offered data specific to the burn speed of APCP when used for its 'common or primary purpose.' On this record, the agency's decision cannot withstand judicial review."
Yep, that's the agency we all know and love to hate.

This entry was published Sun Feb 12 17:55:33 CST 2006 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2006-02-12 17:55:33.0. [Tweet]

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