Adapted from a Berkshire Eagle Opinion piece, Jan 12, 2023 | Original opinion piece here.
First Pittsfield, then Lenox and now Sheffield. Heated debates over the lack of safety of Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs) of any size or any “G” are igniting in communities across the Berkshires. The rollout of so-called “5th-generation” of WTFs (which is actually 4G/5G densification) is stalling in many places. That is because this attempt to place heavy industrial equipment next to residences, schools, parks, recreation areas or care facilities — is unnecessary, hazardous and running into stiff opposition.
Local residents are informed, organized and confident. They are asserting their political will and asking their local governments to pass protective local telecommunications laws consistent with the federal law: the 1996 Telecommunications Act (1996-TCA). These residents are insisting on the responsible placement of WTFs: only in commercial and industrial zones and only if a significant gap in telecommunications service has been proven with substantial written evidence in the public record.Telecommunications service is not broadband, as the Wireless industry would like you to believe. It is only the ability to make outdoor wireless phone calls along major roadways. Once that has been achieved, there is no significant gap in telecommunications service and no basis for preemption of local laws.
The big problem for the Wireless industry is that on Friday the 13th in August 2021, the wireless world irrevocably changed due to a landmark ruling in the US Courts of Appeals, DC Circuit in Case 20-1025 Environmental Health Trust v. FCC, 9 F.4th 893 (D.C. Cir. 2021). In that ruling the DC Cir. judges based their ruling on the following substantial written evidence: 11,000+ pages of peer-reviewed, scientific evidence that Environmental Health Trust and Children’s Health Defense and others plaintiffs placed in the FCC’s public record: Vol-1, Vol-2, Vol-3, Vol-4, Vol-5, Vol-6, Vol-7 Vol-8, Vol-9, Vol-10, Vol-11, Vol-12, Vol-13, Vol-14, Vol-15, Vol-16, Vol-17, Vol-18, Vol-19, Vol-20, Vol-21, Vol-22, Vol-23, Vol-24, Vol-25, Vol-26 and Vol-27.
The judges in that case ruled:
“. . . we grant the petitions in part and remand to the Commission to provide a reasoned explanation for its determination that its [microwave radiation maximum public exposure] guidelines adequately protect against harmful effects of exposure to radio-frequency [microwave] radiation. It must, in particular,
- (i) provide a reasoned explanation for its decision to retain its testing procedures for determining whether cell phones and other portable electronic devices comply with its guidelines,
- (ii) address the impacts of RF radiation on children, the health implications of long-term exposure to RF radiation, the ubiquity of wireless devices, and other technological developments that have occurred since the Commission last updated its guidelines, and
- (iii) address the impacts of RF radiation on the environment.”
This ruling extinguishes the old tale spun by wireless industry propaganda that often fills mainstream media: that there is a debate about the safety of wireless infrastructure. That debate is over. The evidence of biological harms caused by the microwave radiation pollution that spews from WTF infrastructure antennas 24/7 has been
- Entered into the FCC’s public record,
- Accepted by the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit
- Ruled upon by the D.C. Circuit — and all other Circuits are bound by this ruling.
The judges mandated that the FCC finally address the substantial written evidence of negative impacts of pulsed, modulated wireless radiation from cellular infrastructure antennas on adults, children and the environment. The judges also mandated the FCC to determine whether its RF microwave radiation exposure guideline adequately protects against harmful effects RF microwave radiation microwave radiation. While we are all waiting for the FCC to complete this court-mandated work, no community should allow any irresponsible placements of WTFs close to residences, schools, parks, recreation areas or care facilities. In fact, any locality can deem WTF applications incomplete until the FCC completes this court-mandated work.
The evidence at the links, above, is on the public record at the FCC and at the U.S. Courts of Appeals. This evidence is fueling the citizen action we’ve seen recently at the Pittsfield Board of Health and Lenox Planning Board. Now Sheffield officials are also learning that the wireless industry propaganda holds no water.
Please note that any person or media outlet that claims that there “is a dearth of comprehensive scientific evidence on the long-term health impacts of exposure to microwave transmissions” is wrong and woefully uninformed. The 11,000+ pages of evidence at the links, above, inform everyone.
Similarly, any person or media outlet that alleges there is “little procedural wiggle room:” is also uninformed about the legislative intent of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, expressed in the 1996-TCA conference report cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 in City of Rancho Palos Verdes v. Abrams, 101 Cal.App.4th 367, 124 Cal. Rptr. 2d 80 (Cal. Ct. App. 2002)
Justice Breyer, with whom Justice O’Connor, Justice Souter and Justice Ginsburg join, concurring
“Congress initially considered a single national solution, namely a FCC wireless tower siting policy that would preempt state and local authority. Ibid.; see also H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 104-458, p. 207 (1996). But Congress ultimately rejected the national approach and substituted a system based on cooperative federalism. Id., at 207-208. State and local authorities remain free to make siting decisions.
The Legislative intent of the 1996-TCA is stated clearly in the 1996-TCA Conference Report:
“The conferees also intend that the phrase ‘unreasonably discriminate among providers of functionally equivalent services’ will provide localities with the flexibility to treat facilities that create different visual, aesthetic, or safety concerns differently to the extent permitted under generally applicable zoning requirements even if those facilities provide functionally equivalent services. For example, the conferees do not intend that if a State or local government grants a permit in a commercial district, it must also grant a permit for a competitor’s 50-foot tower in a residential district.”
In 1996, localities were granted the power to locally regulate the operations of Wireless Telecommunications Facilities (WTFs) of any size or any “G” in order to ensure public safety. Sheffield’s cell tower controversy, like the ones before it and those that will inevitably follow, underscore that localities are not sufficiently informed about cooperative federalism and are overly-influenced by Wireless industry propaganda.
Any person or media outlet that alleges there is a need for “a more robust and thoroughly updated regulatory framework that town planners and health boards can rely on when wireless facility opponents press their public safety case in town meetings and tower permit hearings” is reading straight from the Wireless industry propaganda playbook. There are no such needs. The Federal law, the 1996-TCA is clear: localities have the final say in zoning matters to restrict WTF placement in order to deliver actual public safety to its residents.
Although, the Berkshire Eagle has expressed its “skepticism about far-reaching claims of myriad health problems caused by the [RF microwave] emissions from cell towers and that such claims should “require evidence demonstrating not just correlational but causal links.” . . . nothing in the 1996-TCA requires such causal links. That is just more Wireless industry propaganda.
The 1996-TCA says in Title 47 U.S. Code §332(c)(7)(B)(iii)
“Any decision by a State or local government or instrumentality thereof to deny a request to place, construct, or modify personal wireless service facilities shall be in writing and supported by substantial evidence contained in a written record.
The “substantial evidence contained in a written record” are the 11,000+ pages of evidence, cited in the links, above. Any locality can cite that evidence to substantiate its decision to deny any irresponsible placement of a WTF in its community. Full stop.