Washington, DC – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decided late yesterday that the telecommunications industry does not need to verify compliance with environmental and historic preservation laws prior to licensing, certification or registration. The decision came as a denial of a petition filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The FCC is required to conduct environmental and historic review of licenses and permits granted to wireless, fiber optic cable and other telecommunications structures by the National Environmental Policy Act (1969) and the National Historic Preservation Act (1966). Continuing the agency’s trend toward de-regulation under Chairman Michael Powell, the Commission has decided to rely upon industry “self-certification” of compliance with these laws.
The PEER petition detailed widespread destruction of environmental and cultural resources from poorly regulated telecommunication development, including: · Killing sensitive coral reefs along the Florida coast;
· Dredging rare coastal wetlands in New England; and
· Desecrating Native American graves and ruins in several states.
“Industry’s inability to police its own pollution is the very reason that government agencies are charged with enforcing environmental laws,” stated PEER General Counsel Dan Meyer who is preparing to appeal the decision. “The telecommunications revolution has created serious environmental consequences but the FCC has abdicated its legal responsibility by sanctioning the destruction of America’s natural treasures.”
In a separate statement, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps underscored that the agency has done a poor job of demonstrating its environmental compliance.
A key element of the decision is the FCC’s adherence to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is tasked with ensuring agency compliance with NEPA. If the FCC does not grant reconsideration of its decision, the last administrative remedy prior to a court challenge is an appeal to the CEQ.
“Rather than protecting the telecomm industry, the FCC has created corporate uncertainty by opening up every one of their future decisions to environmental challenge,” Meyer predicted.