The FCC has released the comment dates for its draft rules setting out when Environmental Assessments are needed to formally evaluate the environmental impact of the construction and major alteration of communications towers. We wrote about these draft rules here, and described their history – growing out of concerns by conservation groups about the effects of communications
The question of the environmental impact of the construction or significant alteration of a communications tower has been a matter of controversy for quite some time. Three years ago, when conservation groups challenged the FCC’s procedures on the approval of towers and the consideration of the impact that such towers have on migratory birds, the US Court of Appeals ordered the FCC to include more public participation in the determination of whether those towers required detailed environmental studies ( an "environmental assessment" or an "EA") before they could be built. This week, the FCC sought comments on their Draft Environmental Notice Requirements and Interim Procedures for its Antenna Registration Program. These rules propose:
- That, before an Antenna Structure Registration ("ASR") is issued by the FCC, any applicant must first give public notice of the construction in a local newspaper or other local media source. The proposal will also be listed on the FCC’s website. These notices are to allow the public to comment on the proposal.
- If an EA is required, the FCC will process that assessment before the filing of the ASR
- An EA will preliminarily be required for all requests for an ASR for towers of more than 450 feet to determine its impact on migratory birds, though the FCC may modify this requirement after further study.
This proposal is somewhat tracks the proposed requirements for an EA that were set out in a settlement agreement between many affected parties, including conservation groups, the NAB and CTIA – an agreement about which we wrote here. That agreement, while conclusively requiring an EA for towers of over 450 feet, stated that towers between 351 and 450 feet would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and left open the question of whether an EA would be required for towers of 350 feet or less. …