Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA)

On March 13, 2012, the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau (WTB) released a Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) that evaluates the potential environmental effects of the FCC’s Antenna Structure Registration (ASR) program. The PEA considers: 1) alternatives to address potential environmental effects; and 2) whether more extensive analysis, in the form of a programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) may be required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), under each of the alternatives.

The PEA responds to a Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling in American Bird Conservancy v. FCC (516 F.3d 1027 (2008)) holding that the FCC had not adequately evaluated the potential effects of the Antenna Structure Registration System (ASR) program on threatened and endangered species and migratory birds.   On November 12, 2010, the FCC released a Public Notice to seek public comment on the effects of the ASR programOn August 26, 2011, WTB released and sought comments on a draft PEA.

The Final PEA includes various proposals to maintain or revise the ASR program  but does not include a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). Instead, WTB intends to recommend to the Commission a further notice of proposed rulemaking to invite 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 record that is developed, the Commission will either issue a FONSI or initiate further environmental processing.

1) No Action Alternative: The Commission’s rules require an EA under the circumstances found in 47 C.F.R. Section 1.1307.  This proposal would continue the ASR program and NEPA compliance procedures, but would eliminate the interim requirement that an applicant complete an Environmental Assessment (EA) for any tower over 450 feet.

The final PEA finds that this proposal would have no significant effect on the environment at the national level.  However, individual towers may have unaddressed significant effects on eagles and migratory birds.  As a result, there may be instances in which potentially significant impacts from a proposed tower to local populations of migratory birds, Bald Eagles, or Golden Eagles would not be addressed.

2) Alternative 1: This proposal is the same as the No Action Alternative, but assumes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will change its permitted lighting configurations so future towersthat use red flashing lights would also not use red steady-burning lights.

The final PEA finds that this proposal would have no significant effect on the environment at the national level, but individual towers may have unaddressed significant effects on migratory birds and Bald and Golden Eagles so that there may be instances in which potentially significant impacts to a local population of migratory birds, Bald Eagles, or Golden Eagles from a proposed tower would not be addressed.

3) Alternative 2: This proposal includes three options. Each option would revise the ASR program and NEPA compliance procedures to include more comprehensive EAs particularly for potential effects to migratory birds.

Option A: This option would require an EA for all new registered towers outside of an antenna farm. An EA would also be required for towers in an antenna farm, replacement towers, and modifications of towers if there is a substantial increase in size over the existing tower or towers.

The final PEA finds that this proposal would have no significant impact on the environment at the national level, and that site-specific EAs would address potentially significant local impacts.

Option B: This option would require an EA for all new towers outside of an antenna farm AND for towers in an antenna farm, replacement towers, and modifications to towers if there is a substantial increase in size over the existing tower or towers, if they:

  • Would require an EA under Section 1.1307 of the FCC’s rules;
  • Would be constructed in an important eagle use area; or
  • Are located on ridgelines or in coastal zones, bird staging areas, colonial nesting sites, or Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, AND are more than 450 feet tall (137 meters), use guy wires, or use a red steady-burning lighting scheme.

The final PEA finds that this proposal would have no significant impact on the environment at the national level, and that site-specific EAs would address potentially significant local impacts.

Option C:  This option would require an EA for all new registered towers outside of an antenna farm, as well as towers in an antenna farm, replacement towers, and modifications to towers if there is a substantial increase in size over the existing tower or towers, if they:

  • Would require an EA under Section 1.1307 of the rules; or
  • Are more than 450 feet (137 meters) tall

The final PEA finds that this proposal would have no significant effect on the environment at the national level, but there may be instances in which potentially significant impacts to a local population of migratory birds, Bald Eagles, or Golden Eagles from a proposed tower would not be addressed.

 

Bureau/Office: 

Updated: 
Tuesday, September 20, 2016