Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Environmental Impact Analysis: New Requirement for Cell Towers (USA)


Attached is an article that ran yesterday (2/19/08) on a new D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling requiring the Federal Communications Commission to conduct Environmental Impact Assessments of cell towers on migratory birds before granting permits. Projecting forward, this ruling could be a new opening to raise concerns over other effects of tower radiation. We believe this is a significant move forward as it is a crack in the veneer created by the mobile phone industry in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 where EISs were explicitly excluded. Expect the mobile phone industry to immediately begin legislative moves to counter this high court decision....Stay tuned.....

Dr. George Carlo

Science and Public Policy Institute
Washington, D.C. 20004

WILDLIFE: Cell towers must protect birds, U.S. court rules (02/19/2008)
Allison Winter, E&ENews PM reporter

The government must require cell phone towers to be equipped with protection for migratory birds, a federal court ruled today.

The split decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia says that the Federal Communications Commission illegally licensed 6,000 towers along the Gulf Coast. The court says the agency must reassess those permits to make sure the communications towers comply with the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

The decision addresses FCC's ruling on towers in the Gulf of Mexico, but lawyers who argued for environmentalists on the case said it could have broader reach for all of the agency's permits on new communications towers.

"The reason we think it's significant is that it directs FCC to carefully review the environmental impact of towers before they issue the permits," said Steve Roady, a lawyer with Earthjustice.

Two members of the three-judge panel said FCC should consult with wildlife experts and require environmental impact assessments for the towers. The court also said FCC failed to sufficiently involve the public in its tower approval process. Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh dissented. He said the suit was premature because FCC is re-examining the issue of migratory birds and towers in in a separate, broader rulemaking.

"The Catch-22 for the interested parties ... is that the commission provides public notice of individual tower applications only after approving them," Judges Judith Rogers and Merrick Garland wrote in their majority opinion.

The American Bird Conservancy and other environmental groups had sued FCC in an effort to block the communications towers along the Gulf Coast, a major migratory corridor for birds. The group says 5 million to 50 million birds are killed each year in collisions and other accidents with communications towers.

"We are very pleased by today's ruling, which will require the FCC to assess the environmental impacts of towers," said Darin Schroeder of the American Bird Conservancy. "Given the large number of bird deaths caused by towers, an environmental review is long overdue." He added that the decision a "huge victory" for birds.

Aviation lights on communications towers can attract and confuse birds, especially in foggy conditions, environmentalists say. Groups say birds could be saved if FCC would change its requirements for lighting on the towers, placing white strobe lights over the constant red lights, to alert the birds. Some industry groups say the lighting schemes would be expensive and have questionable benefits.

Click here to read the decision.

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lectromagnetic Pollution