The county is starting work on a new ordinance to regulate telecommunications facilities in Plumas County.
The Plumas County Planning Commission heard from Josh Hart, director of Stop Smart Meters!, headquartered in Portola, on the dangers of wireless radiation.
The planning commission also heard from Plumas County Supervisor Michael Sanchez on the need for wireless towers in rural areas.
Purpose of the ordinance
The planning commission met July 20 to discuss a draft telecommunications ordinance for the county. The 18-page ordinance was meant to regulate placement of telecommunication towers and other facilities in the county.
Commissioner John Olofson made several suggestions. Olofson was concerned that there be standards in the ordinance concerning tower access roads, maintenance of fencing around facilities and requiring biannual reports from telecommunications companies.
Plumas County Planning Director Randy Wilson said he wanted providers to let the county know the spatial extent and strength of their telecommunications signals throughout the county.
Wilson said the county did not know yet if it was better to have towers collocated, so that less surface area is affected by towers or if there should be restrictions on the number of towers in any given location to protect human health and the environment.
Wilson added that telecommunication companies “self-certify” the emissions from their facilities.
Josh Hart, director of Stop Smart Meters!, addressed the commission with his concerns about wireless radiation and the draft telecommunications ordinance.
Hart warned the commission that when it comes to the telecommunications industry, “You are facing an industry that is very powerful, very wealthy.”
Hart added, “Local governments are the greatest impediment to communications companies getting everything they want.”
Hart referred to the environmental, health and safety issues raised by telecommunications towers. He mentioned brain tumors from cell towers and extended cell phone use, towers that fall over, telecommunication facilities that ignite wildfires and impacts on wildlife.
In 2011, A World Health Organization report classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans, based on an increased risk for brain cancer associated with wireless phone use.
Hart testified that he himself is sensitive to radio-frequency (RF) microwave radiation emanating from wireless devices and facilities.
“I get ill when I am exposed to RF radiation,” he said.
Hart recommended that the county not require that telecommunications companies camouflage their towers.
“If anything,” Hart said, “we should be painting them fluorescent orange” to increase people’s sensitivity to the dangers.
Hart reported that 75 percent of scientific studies on the effects of RF demonstrate that maximum RF limits set by the Federal Communications Commission are too high. He added that the FCC has been dragging its heels for two years on its promised reevaluation of maximum RF limits.
Hart recommended that the county incentivize putting cable in the ground over installing wireless facilities for Internet access.
Hart testified that mini Wi-Fi towers, called “small cell” towers or “monopoles,” in residential areas increase RF levels. He insisted, “We can have cellular service without allowing facilities in residential areas.”
The Center for Municipal Solutions
Hart recommended that the county reach out to The Center for Municipal Solutions, a consulting firm that helps municipalities and counties defend their rights against telecommunications companies.
CMS claimed on its website to have represented almost 1,000 communities in 38 states over the past 20 years.
Hart said that CMS’s services are free as cities and counties can write regulations to charge telecommunications companies for the cost of the consultations with wireless experts.
Senate Bill 649
Senate Bill 649, Wireless and Small Cell Telecommunications Facilities, is a bill that would regulate the permitting and leasing of public property (telephone poles, power lines, street lights, signposts, buildings, etc.) for installation of “small cell” towers.
Under the bill, cities and counties would have less discretion as to where these facilities can be located, their specifications and what governments can charge for use of those facilities.
Hart encouraged Plumas County to join The League of California Cities in opposing the bill.
Need for wireless
Sanchez agreed with Hart that health and safety should be the county’s first concern.
However, he emphasized, the east county needs more people and businesses, and he didn’t think it was economically feasible that fiber optic cable reach everyone. He felt that wireless towers would be needed.
Sanchez said, “We need better Internet service because we need immigration of businesses into the county. They won’t come without good Internet.”
Sanchez has had extensive experience providing healthcare to veterans. He noted, “Alcohol and tobacco are our biggest killers, yet we can’t get people to stop doing those things. … Furthermore,” he added, “You can get cancer from the sun.”
Wilson told the commission that he had sent a draft of the telecommunications ordinance to AT&T, but did not receive a response.
He said that the county needed all of the players at the table to help the county understand telecommunications and its effects on people and the environment.
Planning Commissioner Larry Williams thought it would be good to at least find out what the FCC radiation emission standards are.
The planning commission decided more discussion was needed and would take up the issue again Aug. 3.
Stop Smart Meters! is headquartered in Portola. Hart lives in Clio and can be reached at 836-7252 or [email protected]
The Center for Municipal Solutions can be reached by visiting telecomsol.com, or by calling 919-266-5990 or 518-439-3079.
The FCC website can be found at fcc.gov. The 2011 WHO report can be found by searching “Electromagnetic fields and public health: mobile phones.”
Purpose of the Plumas County’s Telecommunications Ordinance
– Protect the health and safety of the public.
– Minimize general, visual and operational impacts of telecommunications facilities.
– Maximize co-location of facilities to minimize the total number of facilities in the county.
– Minimize the placement of new small cell-monopoles, larger towers and antennas in residential areas.
– Minimize the impacts to agriculture and air navigation.
– Providing wireless communications in an effective and efficient manner.