The FCC is under a federal court mandate to revise its antenna structure registration (ASR) public notice procedures because of a U.S. Courts of Appeals decision finding that the construction of communications towers has a significant environmental effect on migratory birds. In response to the court’s mandate, the FCC has requested comment on draft rules and interim procedures intended to provide the public with a meaningful opportunity to request further environmental review for communications structures that require registration. The FCC’s proposed notice requirements will apply to all structures that require FAA notice and FCC registration, including towers more than 200 feet in height, structures located on the grounds of an airport, and towers between 20-200 feet in height that exceed an imaginary 100:1 slope around an airport runway.
The FCC requested comment on the following proposals:
Prior to filing an ASR application (FCC Form 854) for a new antenna structure, an applicant would be required to provide notice of the proposed construction to the local community though publication in a newspaper of general circulation or through the local zoning process, and the FCC would post information about the proposal on its website for 30 days, to give members of the public an opportunity to comment on the environmental effects of the proposed construction. The FCC would consider any comments received from the public to determine whether an Environmental Assessment (EA) is required for the tower.
Any interested person may file a request for environmental processing with the FCC no later than 30 days after the proposed antenna structure goes on public notice on the FCC’s website. The request must explain why the proposed antenna structure may have a significant impact on the quality of the human environment and must set forth in detail the reasons supporting the request. Applicants will have an opportunity to respond.
The notice requirements will not apply when the ASR application is submitted for minor changes, such as changes in ownership, reductions in structure height or minor increases in structure height, certain changes in lighting, and other situations.
EAs for those registered towers would be filed and considered by the FCC prior to the filing of an ASR application.
On an interim basis, pending completion of the ongoing Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) of the ASR program, an EA would be required for each proposed registered tower more than 450 feet in height to address its potential impact on migratory birds. Towers under 450 feet could be made subject to EA review based on comments from the public and FCC review of those comments.
The FCC will not grant a Form 601 application before an ASR is granted. If registration is not required, the applicant must provide information in its application sufficient for the FCC to verify this fact. The FCC may dismiss a license application associated with a proposed antenna structure subject to these notice requirements if the applicant is required to submit an EA or other environmental information and the license application has been pending more than 60 days.
An applicant must file an amendment to report any substantial change in the proposed antenna structure. Certain changes to the physical structure, lighting, or geographic location data for a proposed registered antenna structure will require additional local and national notice and a new period for filing requests for environmental review.
The FCC must resolve all environmental issues before the tower owner, or the tenant licensee acting on behalf of the owner, may complete the ASR application.
The FCC is proposing that an ASR application that is pending with the FCC as of the date these new rules become effective (which will probably be 30 days after Federal Register publication) will not be subject to the notification process. However, if such an application is amended in a manner as described above, then the application will become subject to the notification process.