Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama - energy and environmental issues

From: Deborah Kopald
Date: Tue, Nov 25, 2008 at 12:28 AM
Subject: Cell Towers and the Obama Administration

This week, the Obama Administration solicited suggestions on energy and environmental issues at http://www.change.gov/page/s/energyenviro .

I would like the Obama Administration to make sure that the FCC does not preempt local control over zoning by allowing cell tower companies to dictate the placement of cell towers in peoples' communities by overriding local control over siting. The Obama administration should NOT adopt FCC Commisioner Adelstein's short-sighted proposal to preempt municipalities' zoning control.

The cell tower issue is a bipartisan issue that has united Democrats and Republicans alike over the themes of local zoning control, common-sense land use policy and environmental preservation. This issue has been particularly important in Colorado, California, New York, and New England as well as other places around the country.

Here's a little background on the issue:

The Telecom Act of '96 deregulated the wireless industry. One of the results was that cell tower companies were aggressive about trying to put up cell towers in areas in which they didn't belong- too close to people's homes and schools. Concerns about the health effects of proximity to cell towers are real. Various branches of the military have more stringent exposure standards than the federal ANSI standards.

The federal government allows cell towers to emit much more radiation than is allowed in other countries. Canada and Italy's cell tower emissions are 100 times less than U.S. towers; China's are 166 times less, Switzerland's are 250 times less and New Zealand's are 50,000 times less.

Consider the comments of these Nobel Prize nominees in medicine: Dr. Gerard Hyland says, "Existing safety guidelines for cell towers are completely inadequate."
Dr. Robert O. Becker writes, "I have no doubt ... that the greatest polluting element in the Earth's environment is the proliferation of [artificial] magnetic fields." More than 40 physicians and scientists at Harvard and Boston University Schools of Public Health claim cell towers are a "radiation hazard" and "public health emergency."

Many local communities have dealt with cell tower placement by requiring minimum setbacks from homes, schools and other locations that people frequent.
Recently, the FCC tried to preempt local control of tower placement. I have enclosed the letter I submitted to the FCC.

Dear FCC and FCC Commissioner Adelstein:

Preemption goes against the spirit of adequate environmental review. Local regulation is not obstructionist but rather within the rights reserved to communities by the Telecom Act of 1996 by the US Congress.
I worked on local siting in my town and I can tell you first hand that without the proposed federal interference, as it is we have very little control over tower siting which is usually dictated by the well-heeled cell phone companies which come into towns, demand to have their first choice sites and often create menacing public campaigns that often contain untruths about coverage.

Towers like other non-conforming structures are subject to local review- without review, towers would go up on property where landowners are willing to cut quick deals. These sites are neither the most appropriate environmentally nor the sites that would provide the most efficient coverage necessarily.
Local review ensures appropriate land use policy. It would be devastating for the federal government to take away local zoning power from us.

Please do not approve the preemption policy, which amounts to a de facto land taking by the federal government.
In conclusion, the best course of policy would be for the federal government NOT to interfere with local zoning and siting. The best case scenario would be for the federal government to review the weak ANSI radiation standards and consider why the US allows thousands of times more emissions than many of our foreign counterparts.

Barring that, the federal government should not add insult to injury and allow the wireless industry to bulldoze local zoning and municipal laws by forcing towers or transmitters near schools or homes when there are other, more appropriate places for them to be sited.

Deborah Kopald