Above Photo: HERMAN DE KEYPERLING/Flickr
Appeals Court unanimously overturns FCC Effort to Eliminate NEPA and Historic Review
Duns agency ‘arbitrary and capricious’ actions
A federal appeals court has vacated and remanded the “arbitrary and capricious” Federal Communications Commission’s decision to allow AT&T Inc., Verizon, and other wireless carriers, cell phone facilities owners and operators to bypass historic preservation and environmental reviews for 5G networks.
On August 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously denied the FCC order that would have exempted 800,000 or more small cell construction (cell antenna facilities) from historic-preservation review under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The overturned FCC order had let carriers deploy small-cell equipment on non-tribal lands without any federally required reviews.
“Small cells” is an industry created term to refer to cell antennas which can be mounted on utility poles, lamp posts, or their own towers. The three-judge panel declared that the FCC failed to “adequately address possible harms of deregulation and benefits of environmental and historic-preservation review…. In particular, the Commission failed to justify its confidence that small cell deployments pose little to no cognizable religious, cultural, or environmental risk, particularly given the vast number of proposed deployments and the reality that the Order will principally affect small cells that require new construction.”
Attorney Edward B. Myers, of counsel to Environmental Health Trust, and an intervenor in the Court proceeding along with the Natural Resources Defense Council and 19 tribal groups, commented on the decision’s importance: “The FCC’s order represented a precipitous effort to jam thousands of 5G towers into virtually every neighborhood in the country based on woefully outdated safety standards. The efforts of the FCC to develop meaningful safety standards, especially as regards the health impacts of radiofrequency radiation emitted by 5G cell facilities, are woefully out of date. I am gratified by the Court’s decision which, in my view, is a cautionary tale against the arbitrary and capricious efforts of the FCC to dispense with environmental and historic preservation reviews.”
Growing evidence indicates that wireless radiation and the frequencies used in 5G can seriously impact wildlife. For example, research shows that 5G radiofrequency radiation could affect the capacity of bees and other insects to pollinate crops. Studies also indicate that this radiation can alter animal navigation, disturb honeybee colonies, damage trees and impact other plants. Published reviews on 5G, millimeter waves and wireless radiation (even from decades ago) have cataloged a host of harmful impacts, including increased temperature, altered gene expression, faster cell growth, inflammatory and metabolic processes, damage to the eyes and cellular stress, memory problems, sperm damage, genetic damage, behavior issues and brain damage.