Wednesday, September 03, 2008

FCC Creating New Cell Tower Rules

The cell phone industry is trying to influence how the FCC handles environmental assessments for new cell phone towers.

Crown argues that, since the court stipulated that these transmitters may have had a "significant environmental impact," the FCC should ask for an environment assessment only on those towers that might pose a "significant" problem. The Commission therefore should confer with the Fish and Wildlife Service, antenna operators, and environmental groups to set up a "nationwide programming agreement establishing by consensus the criteria that must be present" to trigger an environmental assessment.

This proposal will probably meet with at least some sympathy from environmentalists, more so than Crown's second recommendation, which suggests that environmentally related notices of proposed new towers should be published in a local newspaper rather than on the FCC's web site....

Finally, Crown wants a shorter period of review for these assessments: no more than 21 days for the FCC to conclude that a new tower application will need an assessment, and no more than 30 days for public comment on the Commission's assessment of the tower.
The last suggestion ought to be out of the question; the public needs adequate time to comment on these decisions, and local organizations need time to decide whether to comment and what to say. The first, also, should not be part of the final procedure, since the point of doing an assessment is to determine the risk level. Apart from consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service's biologists, I am not sure how the FCC could determine whether to do an assessment. I could see arguments for the second, but on the whole, it is better to stick with whatever procedure the FCC uses for other public announcements.

Of course, whatever procedure the FCC produces might be moot if the new NEPA and ESA regulations become established practice.