Adapted from an article by Dan Schere ; November 15, 2018; Original Bethesda magazin here
The Montgomery County Council and County Executive Ike Leggett are planning to sue the Federal Communications Commission with the goal of forcing the agency to update its radio frequency emissions guidelines for small cell antennas. The council has hired attorney Albert Catalano of the Washington, D.C., firm Keller and Heckman LLP, according to a Nov. 6 memo from County Attorney Marc Hansen to council President Hans Riemer.
For the last two years, the council has been deliberating a bill that would require the antennas to be installed on existing utility poles and allow new poles housing the antennas to be installed in residential neighborhoods in order to bring high-speed 5G wireless service to the county. The “small cell” bill has been met with fierce opposition from residents’ groups who are aware of the hazards of microwave radiation transmitting from utility poles into neighborhoods. To mitigate these hazards, the small cell anteanns could be installed no closer than 2,500 feet from residential zones. The bill is expected to be discussed further during the next council term, which begins Dec. 4.
According to the FCC’s website, the radio frequency exposure limit is “many times greater” than radio frequency levels that are typically found at the base of cell towers. In a Thursday press release, Riemer wrote that almost a year ago he, Leggett and U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), asked the FCC to update its radiofrequency emissions guidelines, but the agency declined. “So we are taking them to court to ensure that they fulfill their responsibility to keep our residents safe,” Riemer wrote.
Riemer also noted the FCC prohibits local governments from enacting legislation regarding such based on environmental effects of RF-EMR exposures.
“we need the FCC to embrace this issue [of adverse health effects from RF-EMR exposures that occur far below the current RF-EMR exposure guidelines] in an open and transparent manner in order to address [substantial evidence of harms to the] public . . . The FCC must work with other federal agencies to examine the science carefully and weigh the costs and benefits of this new technology and share the results publicly,”
Separately, Montgomery County is one of 40 jurisdictions across the country that is involved in a lawsuit challenging the FCC’s preemption order concerning cell antennas, which limits the amount of time local jurisdictions have to install the devices.
Potomac resident Theodora Scarato said Friday that she has concerns about the fact that Keller and Heckman has frequently represented a number of telecommunications companies according to the law firm’s website. She said she isn’t assigning blame to the council, but wants to know more about what motivated the lawsuit.
“I want to know more. Are there conflicts of interest that need to be looked into?” she said.