Children’s Health Defense (CHD) on Tuesday petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “quit stalling” and comply with a court-ordered mandate to explain how the agency determined its current guidelines adequately protect humans and the environment against harmful effects of exposure to radiofrequency (RF) radiation.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued the mandate on Aug. 13, 2021, when it ruled the FCC failed to consider the non-cancer evidence of adverse health effects related to wireless technology when the agency determined its 1996 health and safety guidelines regarding wireless-based technologies adequately protected public health.
The ruling stemmed from CHD’s historic win in a case challenging the FCC’s decision not to review the 1996 guidelines.
The FCC has taken no action to comply with the court’s ruling, prompting CHD to threaten further legal action.
Scott McCollough, lead attorney for CHD’s historic case and author of the petition, said CHD submitted a petition — rather than a request — because a petition “is something to which they must respond,” according to administrative law.
CHD’s petition said:
“The Commission cannot just sit on this matter any longer…Any continued non-action will violate the judgment and mandate and expose the Commission to further judicial review and, ultimately, a mandamus order requiring action.”
In its 2021 decision, the court said the agency must also address the environmental impacts of RF radiation and the “impact of RF radiation on children, the health implications of long-term exposure to RF radiation, the ubiquity of wireless devices and other technological developments that have occurred since the Commission last updated its guidelines.”
McCollough, a telecommunication and administrative law attorney, told The Defender:
“The FCC needs to receive all the evidence and science regarding the biological effects of RF radiation and deal with it in good faith.
“The agency must recognize that its current guidelines need to be changed to reflect reality.”
‘FCC cannot responsibly ignore this science any longer’
CHD’s petition is the latest legal move in an ongoing battle stemming from the FCC’s 2019 decision to not update its 1996 RF exposure guideline and to terminate a legal inquiry process of examining the scientific evidence of adverse biological effects of RF radiation.
The FCC maintained that no further inquiry into scientific evidence was necessary and that its 1996 RF exposure — or emission — guidelines were sufficient for protecting the public against harm.
“The best available scientific evidence, including our consideration of the opinions provided by expert U.S. federal health agencies, supports maintaining the existing RF exposure limits,” the agency stated in November 2019.
In response, the CHD and other petitioners, including the Environmental Health Trust, sued the FCC and filed 11,000 pages of evidence of harm from 5G and wireless technology, which they alleged the FCC had ignored in rendering its 2019 decision.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in 2021 sided with CHD, calling the FCC’s 2019 decision “arbitrary and capricious” because it failed to consider the non-cancer evidence regarding adverse health effects of wireless technology.
The court noted that the FCC failed to respond to approximately 200 comments on the record by people who experienced illness or injury from electromagnetic radiation sickness.
Moreover, the court said the FCC “completely failed to acknowledge, let alone respond to, comments concerning the impact of RF radiation on the environment…The record contains substantive evidence of potential environmental harms.”
It has now been three years and more than three months since the FCC’s 2019 decision, CHD’s petition pointed out.
“During that period even more scientific evidence has been published and it provides even more proof of a harmful biological response to RF exposures at and under the FCC’s emissions guidelines,” the petition said.
The Environmental Health Trust “arduously” uploaded all recent scientific studies to the FCC case’s docket, “so the FCC is fully aware of these developments,” the petition said.
“The Commission cannot responsibly ignore this science any longer,” it added.
FCC has to ‘find a better balance’
According to the petition, the FCC must address the environmental impact of RF radiation not only to comply with the 2021 court order — but also to comply with a looming deadline issued by the Council on Environmental Equality (CEQ), the federal agency responsible for developing the implementation procedures of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).
In 2020, CEQ issued a set of revisions to its Protection of the Environment rules that require the FCC to consult with CEQ on the environmental impact of RF radiation and provide an opportunity for public review and comment by Sept. 14, 2023, the petition said.
“The FCC’s emission rules [about RF radiation] have always been purely about human exposure,” McCollough said. “They do not address limits for exposure to birds, bees, trees, etc.,”
“But the CEQ rules — which they have to update to match — make plain that NEPA procedures are all about [the] impact to the entire human environment, not just humans.”
“So in order to comply with the CEQ mandate, they [the FCC officials] have to update their emissions rules to reflect [the] impact on the human and non-human aspects of the human environment…and the science is telling us RF is harming not only people but also wildlife, trees and especially pollinators.”
McCollough acknowledged that it will be a big task for the FCC to address the scientific evidence of the biological impacts of RF radiation on humans and the environment.
The FCC’s job is to efficiently oversee the radio spectrum as a public resource to deliver communications — but it also has a human safety mandate, he said. The issue is, “How are they going to balance those two priorities?”
NEPA also requires the FCC to assess environmental impact, so that imperative constrains them as well, McCollough noted.
“We’re not asking them [FCC officials] to turn off all the radios,” McCollough said. “We’re asking them to find that balance where you can still deliver reasonable communication service — but not make people sick and not destroy the environment, not kill all the pollinators.”
“They’ve got to find a better balance,” he added.
Originally published on The Defender
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