The developing of a new cell tower requires juggling several complex factors. A property owner must make sure their real estate is properly appraised, that they are abiding by local zoning laws, and that they have a strong lease agreement. Another major factor to consider is the environmental impact of a cell site and if local or state laws will restrict construction.

FCC Authority in Environmental Inspections

While the Environmental Protectional Agency (EPA) often oversees how local industries are regulated with regards to the environment, with wireless telecommunication, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) handles the majority of the oversite in this area. These regulations are enforced through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to evaluate the environmental impact of federal policies. Based on this law, the FCC has the authority to inspect towers to determine their environmental impact and enforce regulations to ensure environmental conservation.

What this means for current or potential cell tower owners is that the FCC can approve or deny a license based on a tower’s environmental protection. For example, if installing a new tower on a piece of land may impact local ecosystems, then the FCC may deny a license. A property owner and wireless provider can issue a new site plan to get the tower approved, but it would need to consider how.

Considering Environmental Factors During Cell Tower Development

While the FCC has the authority to enforce environmental protections, the commission may not inspect every tower or license application thoroughly. Rather, the FCC tends to license large wireless providers who operate in a general geographic area and may only require a NEPA filing and environmental assessment (EA) to ensure a new facility meets federal regulations during a pre-construction review. EAs are often required for only eight scenarios as outlined by Title 47 § 1.1307, which include:

  • Cell towers in designated wilderness area.
  • Cell towers in designated wildlife preserve.
  • Cell towers that may affect threatened or endangered species, designated critical habitats, or may jeopardize the continued existence of any proposed endangered or threatened species
  • Cell towers that could affect local districts, sites, buildings, structures, or objects that have historical, cultural, or archeological significance
  • Cell towers that may affect indigenous religious sites
  • Cell towers in floodplains
  • Cell towers that may require significant construction and change to local ecosystems, including wetlands, forests, and waterways
  • Antenna towers and/or supporting structures that use high intensity white lights and are located in residential neighborhoods

Local zoning laws may play a major role in getting approval for a new cell site and fulfilling environmental protections. Local and state agencies have unique procedures for evaluating the impact of a cell site. While some areas may require a simple process to get approval, others are more stringent.

In either situation, your best option is to speak to Colorado wireless telecommunications attorney about your case. At Welsh Law, LLC, our founding attorney has more than 20 years of experience representing clients in wireless telecommunication disputes and agreements. He can sit down with you in a free initial consultation and discuss how to get a fair deal in your case. Call us at (720) 836-1777 today.