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Commission Rejects Tower Moratorium in Bird Case

Commission Rejects Tower Moratorium in Bird Case

It’s not a sweeping notice that addresses the overall issue of towers and migratory birds; the FCC still expects to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in that matter. But a commission order this month is a loss for several groups that say construction of some communication towers violates environmental laws.
The commission was responding to a petition filed three and a half years ago by the Forest Conservation Council, the American Bird Conservancy and Friends of the Earth. Those groups claimed that FCC policies regarding construction of towers in the Gulf Coast region of the country violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
They pushed the FCC to require tower owners to prepare environmental assessments for about 5,800 existing towers and to require an Environmental Impact Statement evaluating the effects of all antenna structure registrations along the Gulf Coast.
The petitioners wanted the FCC to consult formally with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the effects of antenna structures on threatened and endangered species, establish a moratorium on registration of new communications towers until environmental review could be completed and adopt other measures to address deaths of migratory birds.
The FCC this month decided that the groups failed to justify their request for a moratorium, which the commission said also would hinder availability of commercial and public safety communications. It also said the request for environmental assessments lacked specific allegations relating to individual towers as required under the FCC’s rules.
The commission denied the remaining claims as unsupported but “noted that many of the same issues are being considered in a separate FCC rulemaking proceeding,” it stated.
“The FCC indicated that it intends to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in this proceeding in the near future examining the effects of communications towers on migratory birds.”