Guest Opinion - City skips cell antenna environmental review

By Mark Graham |  

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) affords a small amount of protection to Elk Grove residents from the health effects and hazards of electromagnetic radiation from City approved 4G and 5G cell antennas. Unfortunately, due to bad legal advice from the City Attorney and the unwillingness of the City Council members to think for themselves, we will not receive that protection. 

NEPA and the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC's) rules implementing NEPA require the telecommunications company (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) to complete an initial environmental review for each proposed cell antenna. That is to determine whether the cell antenna is categorically excluded from an Environmental Assessment, which is a more thorough type of environmental review. 
Here is the connection to the City.  If the City has made a master license agreement (as they are sometimes called) with AT&T or Verizon, etc. that says that the company agrees to comply with all applicable environmental laws, and the company must do this in order to receive cell antenna permits from the City, then that agreement gives the City the power and I would say the obligation to make the company comply with NEPA. In other words to say, "According to the terms of our agreement, we (the City) will not issue any cell antenna permits to you until you show us that you have complied with NEPA."  

That's it.  

If it were not for the master license agreement it would simply be a matter of the company complying with NEPA. But the MLA brings the City into the picture.   

I brought this up at the December 11 and January 8 City Council meetings. This is an uninformed and misinformed City Council and it's mostly their own fault. Council Members do not read my emails - at least they don’t reply saying they did, and they never seem to know the issues. Neither time did the City Council members, any of them, question one bit of the advice from the City Attorney or press him to respond to the specific statements from the FCC and the U.S. Court of Appeals I had shown them. 

At the January 8 meeting the City Attorney deliberately misled the Council, saying, “NEPA does not apply, the National Environmental Policy Act does not apply to the City Council’s actions.  We are a local agency we are not a federal agency.”  Well obviously. That does not change the fact that NEPA requires AT&T and Verizon to complete an initial environmental review for each proposed cell antenna AND that section 4.1 of the Master License Agreements between the City and AT&T and Verizon requires the companies to comply with all applicable environmental laws, as a condition of securing cell antenna permits. Each MLA says, “4.1 City Use Permits. In securing permits pursuant to this section and the EGMC, Licensee shall comply with all applicable environmental laws including, without limitation, the California Environmental Quality Act (‘CEQA’).”

It’s too bad our City Attorney chooses to mislead the Council by avoiding the FCC statements and U.S. Court of Appeals statements to the effect that NEPA requires companies to do an environmental review. It’s too bad that he misleads them by failing to address section 4.1. It’s too bad that the Council blindly trusts anything the City Attorney says and doesn’t think for themselves. It’s another example of a failure of city government, happening in plain view.

Below is a video from the referenced January 8, 2020 meeting.

EGCC meeting January 8 2020 on NEPA from Mark Graham on Vimeo.


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D.J. Blutarsky said...

Mr. Graham, the residents owe you an "A" for effort, as you have been diligent on this issue from Day One. However, effort alone is not sufficient when dealing with the City. Unless your voice is accompanied in the form of a lawsuit filing, you might as well be talking into a tin can connected by a string!

Watson, is that you?

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

The other part of the equation for any body of elected officials, especially this body, is how much money you give to their campaigns. No bucks, no Buck Rogers!

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