FCC Report: Changes in Tower Rules Would Have Minimal Effect on Bird Kills

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FCC Report: Changes in Tower Rules Would Have Minimal Effect on Bird Kills

Mar 19, 2012 12:03 PM

Washington - Mar 13, 2012 - The Federal Communications Commission was obliged under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to complete a Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) of the Commission's Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) program. The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau conducted the PEA in compliance with the court's decision in American Bird Conservancy v. FCC, in which the court held, among other things, that the Commission must perform a programmatic analysis of the impact on migratory birds of registered antenna structures.

In September 2010, Commission staff began work on a nationwide programmatic environmental assessment to provide a comprehensive analysis upon which to base the Commission's consideration of the environmental effects of future proposed towers. On Aug. 26, 2011, the FCC released and sought comments on a draft PEA. The final PEA released fully considers the comments received.

The PEA assesses the potential environmental effects, and particularly the effects on migratory birds, of several alternative courses of action. These alternatives include making no changes to the Commission's current environmental compliance procedures, as well as several alternatives that would expand the circumstances under which an environmental assessment (EA) is required for an individual tower. The PEA also considers the possibility that the FAA may revise its permitted lighting configurations in a manner that would reduce the impacts of lighting on migratory birds. The PEA finds that the environmental impact of the ASR program would not be significant at the national level under any of the alternatives considered. The potential for significant impacts to populations of migratory birds, Bald Eagles or Golden Eagles at the local level would vary depending on the course of action ultimately adopted by the Commission.

The WTB intends in the near future to recommend to the Commission a further notice of proposed rulemaking in WT Docket Numbers 08-61 and 03-187 that will invite public comment on what actions the Commission should take to comply with NEPA in light of the analysis in the final PEA. At the conclusion of the rulemaking, based on the findings and possible actions taken therein, the Commission will either issue a Finding of No Significant Impact or initiate further environmental processing.

Pending the conclusion of the rulemaking proceeding, ASR applicants must continue to prepare environmental assessments (EA) where required under the Commission's existing rules. Furthermore, the Commission recently adopted an additional interim EA requirement to protect migratory birds, which will become effective following its approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Under this interim procedure, an EA will be required for any proposed new tower taller than 450' above ground level, for replacement or modification of an existing tower over 450' in height that involves a substantial increase in size, or for certain delineated changes in lighting to a tower taller than 450'.

In the recently adopted Order on Remand, the Commission also instituted a pre-application local and national environmental notification process so that members of the public will have a meaningful opportunity to comment on the environmental effects of proposed antenna structures that require registration with the Commission. The revisions to FCC Form 854 to incorporate the environmental notification process, as well as the interim EA requirement, are subject to approval by the FCC Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The Wireless Telecommunications Bureau will publish in the Federal Register a notice announcing the OMB's approval of these requirements and the effective date of the process. In addition, before the rules take effect, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau will issue a Public Notice providing technical details about the process for submitting the pre-filing notification.

The FCC has established a website, www.fcc.gov/pea, which contains information and downloadable documents relating to the PEA process, including the Final PEA.

DA 12-388
WT Docket No. 08-61
WT Docket No. 03-187

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