Under the Commission’s environmental rules, applicants and licensees are required to assess whether certain proposed facilities may significantly affect the environment. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires environmental review of federal actions that may have a significant environmental effect. The National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) is a component of NEPA review if a federal action may affect historic structures or cultural sites. Section 106 of the NHPA may require Tribal consultation to identify religious and cultural sites. The Nationwide Programmatic Agreement (NPA), to which the FCC is a signatory, streamlines the section 106 process and includes specific instances where sites can be categorically excluded from section 106 review. Sections 1.1307 and 1.1312 are the among the applicable FCC rules implementing NEPA and the NPA and require companies to review whether any new or replacement poles (antennas) have possible negative environmental impacts or negative impacts on historical or tribal sites, in which case a full Environmental Assessment (EA) is required prior to construction.
In addition to meeting the NEPA or NHPA obligations, in certain instances, the owner of a proposed or existing antenna structure may also need to register the structure with the Commission to comply with certain lighting and painting obligations under section 17.4 of the Commission’s rules.
Rules & Statutes
These sections of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (Act), other statutes, and the Commission’s rules are not comprehensive but highlight some that apply to the siting and construction of communications towers.
Sections of the Act and Other Statutes
- 47 U.S.C. § 301 - no person shall operate devices transmitting energy or communications or signals by radio in the United States, including its territories or beyond its borders, or vessels or aircraft or mobile stations within the United States jurisdiction without a license or authorization
- Pub. L. No. 91-190, 83 Stat. 852 (1970) (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq.) (NEPA) - National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
- Pub. L. No. 89-665, 80 Stat. 915 (1966) (codified as amended at 54 U.S.C. § 300101 et seq.) (NHPA) - National Historic Preservation Act
- 54 U.S.C. § 300320 - defining “Undertaking”
- 54 U.S.C. § 306108 - the effect of the undertaking of any historic property must be taken into consideration prior to the approval of Federal funds or issuance of any license on such historic property
Some general rules that apply
- 47 CFR §§ 1.1305-1.1320 - implementing NEPA requirements for Commission approval of actions with possible environmental, historical, or tribal considerations for which a full Environmental Assessment (EA) is required prior to construction
- 47 CFR § 17.4 - in certain instances, the owner of a proposed or existing antenna structure must register the structure with the Commission
- 47 CFR Part 1, Appendix B - Nationwide Programmatic Agreement for the Collocation of Wireless Antennas, implementing federal law that requires the Commission to consider the effects of its undertakings, such as the authorization of an antenna on a communications tower, on historic properties
- 47 CFR Part 1, Appendix C - Nationwide Programmatic Agreement Regarding the Section 106 National Historic Preservation Act Review Process, requiring licensees to assess the potential effect of proposed tower construction, coordinate with all potentially affected State and Tribal historic preservation authorities prior to breaking ground, and timely communicate with the Commission