The FCC is proposing new processing rules and interim procedures designed to give the public an opportunity to comment on proposed ASR-dependent towers and proposed changes to existing towers.
The new rules and procedures are designed to:
- address a court finding that the commission's existing ASR approval process fails to provide an opportunity for public comment on environmental issues raised by the proposed construction; and
- implement certain provisions of a private agreement reached last year by a number of tower-related and environmental groups. Comments on the FCC's proposals were due May 5.
A look at the proposed tower rules
Under the proposed rules, obtaining approval to construct any new tower subject to registration in the ASR system would become more complicated, particularly for towers over 450ft. (Most towers up to 200ft tall and not in the glide slope of an airport can be built without an ASR.) The proposed new rules would require a period for public comment on tower construction or modifications before a formal proposal is filed with the FCC. After the comment period, the FCC would determine whether an environmental assessment (EA) is required before approving the tower. Until the commission separately completes its underlying Programmatic Environmental Assessment of the entire ASR program, individual EAs will automatically be required for any proposed tower or modification over 450ft.
Anyone intending to register a new or substantially changed tower subject to ASR requirements would commence the process by providing the commission with the details of the construction. The public notice does not say exactly how the information is to be submitted — by letter, electronically or some other way. It does suggest that proponents might file a “partially completed” Form 854 ASR form.
The information to be submitted must include, “at a minimum,” all of the information required by Form 854 relative to ownership and contact information, geographic location, height, type of structure and anticipated lighting. Applicants also must provide local public notice of the to-be-proposed tower construction, either in a local newspaper or through “other appropriate means.” This local notice must provide the details of the to-be-proposed construction as well as instructions on how to file comments about it with the commission.
Meanwhile, using the information submitted to it, the commission will post on its website a national notice of the to-be-proposed tower construction. That national notice will include the information filed by the prospective proponent, together with the date of the local public notice. If the prospective proponent has already determined that the tower requires an EA (based on the commission's existing rules, or the presumption associated with 450ft-plus towers), that EA must also be submitted to the FCC at this time.
Once the national notice does appear, interested parties will have 30 days to file a Request for Environmental Processing, asking the commission to require the prospective applicant to prepare an EA. Any party making such a request would have to explain why the to-be-proposed construction would have such a significant environmental impact that an EA should be required. Then the FCC will decide whether an EA is required or, if one already has been submitted, whether the construction will have an environmental impact. Only after the FCC determines that the proposed construction will not have an adverse impact can an applicant file its Form 854 and register its proposed tower.
- Noncommercial TV stations in Illinois and Wisconsin must file their biennial ownership reports by Aug. 1.
- By Aug. 1, TV and Class A TV stations in the following locations must place their 2011 EEO reports in their public files and post them on their websites: California, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
- The license renewal cycle begins June 1, 2012, for TV, Class A TV, TV translators and LPTV stations in Maryland; Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and West Virginia. In these states, on April 1, 2012, TV, Class A TV and LPTVs that originate programming must begin their prefiling renewal announcements. The renewal cycle continues region by region until April 1, 2014, when stations in Delaware and Pennsylvania will be the last to file for renewal.
Harry C. Martin is a member of Fletcher, Heald and Hildreth, PLC.
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