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FCC Seeks Input on Expedited Rules Tower-Bird Protection

The impact of communications towers on migratory birds is back in the news.

It has been almost 10 years since I first raised the issue of migratory birds colliding with communications towers in the September 27, 1999 RF Current. In August 2003 the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry to gather comment and information on the impact communications towers might have on migratory birds. In November 2006, the Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 06-164) that, among other things, proposed replacing red obstruction lights on towers with medium intensity strobe lights. The proposed rules were vacated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C Circuit because the FCC did not conduct the environmental assessment required by the American Bird Conservancy.

This week the FCC issued a Public Notice (DA 09-904) seeking comment on a Petition for Expedited Rulemaking and other relief filed on behalf of the American Bird Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, and the National Audubon Society regarding implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Petitioners requested the following actions be taken:

  • • Amend the Commission's regulations that implement NEPA, "consistent with Council on Environmental Quality regulations and guidance," to "cure deficiencies" and to ensure that only Commission actions that have no significant environmental effects individually or cumulatively are categorically excluded;
  • • Prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement addressing the environmental consequences of its Antenna Structure Registration ("ASR") program on migratory birds, their habitats, and the environment;
  • • Promulgate rules to clarify the roles, responsibilities and obligations of the Commission, applicants, and non-federal representatives in complying with the ESA;
  • • Consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the ASR program regarding all effects of towers and antenna structures on endangered and threatened species; and
  • • Complete the proposed rulemaking in the Migratory Birds Proceeding to adopt measures to reduce migratory bird deaths in compliance with the MBTA.

Comments are due May 29, 2009. Reply comments must be filed by June 15, 2009. The Public Notice has information on how to file comments.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.