FCC Releases Changes To Tower Application Procedures To Address Environmental, Migratory Bird Issues
December 12, 2011 at 5:46 AM (PT)
The FCC has released its changes to communications tower application rules to address issues of environmental impact and protection of migratory birds. The new procedures add a re-application notification process to allow the public to have a "meaningful opportunity to comment on the environmental effects of proposed antenna structures that require registration with the Commission." An interim change will require an environmental statement be submitted for any proposed tower over 450 feet, pending completion of a programmatic environmental analysis and subsequent rulemaking proceeding.
The new procedures call for public comment before the filing of a completed antenna structure registration application, or if an applicant changes the lighting of an existing tower to a "less preferred" style of lighting. Also, rqquired environmental assessments will now be filed before rather than with the ASR application.
Commissioner MICHAEL J. COPPS submitted a statement with the new procedures saying, "Today, at long last, the Commission has responded to the DC Circuit's rebuke to our previous rules that fell short of meeting our responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. While I am disappointed it has taken nearly four years to respond to the court, I am encouraged these interim rules will give more parties greater opportunity to register their concerns about migratory birds when a tower goes up, including ranking tower lighting styles based on their effects on migratory birds. To be sure, we are mindful of the need for towers for quality voice and data services. But this isn't an either/or proposition -- we can fulfill both these critical purposes with some careful work.
"I applaud the Infrastructure Coalition and Conservation Groups for working together to offer proposals that respond to the court and pave the way to interim rules. I also want to thank the Wireless Bureau and Office of General Counsel for their roles in getting us here, including our ongoing coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration on tower lighting and its effects on migratory birds.
"We have waited far too long for these interim requirements. Let's hope that we do not have to wait nearly as long to get permanent rules in place."