In a Consent Decree released this week, the Commission agreed to accept a "voluntary contribution" of $16,500 to the government from a tower owner, instead of a fine, for its failure to conduct an Historical Review of the locations of three towers prior to their construction. Under the Nationwide Programmatic Agreement which implements the National Historic Preservation Act, the construction of most new towers (essentially unless they are in Industrial zones, areas already cleared by a review, in a utility corridor or replace existing towers), require that the owners coordinate with State or Tribal Historical Preservation Officers ("SHPO" or "THPO") to assure that the new construction will not have an adverse effect on any historic site listed on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The burden is on the tower owner to make sure that the rules for such a review are followed, with the FCC having the power to take action against any applicant who does not conduct such a review. A full description of the requirements of the Programmatic Agreement can be found on the FCC’s website, here.
This decision demonstrates how seriously the Commission takes these requirements. In this case, the tower owner realized that it had constructed the tower without having done the proper review, conducted that review, found that there was no impact on any historic location, and voluntarily reported its failure to the FCC. Nevertheless, the Commission agreed to the fine, plus a requirement that the tower owner appoint a compliance officer and submit reports to the FCC of its compliance with the environmental laws for a period of two years. Constructing a tower? Make sure that you conduct the proper studies.