The Hawaii County Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday supporting the Natural Resources Defense Council and other elected officials who petitioned in federal court for stricter environmental review before the Federal Communications Commission approves wireless communication facilities and other sources of radio frequency emissions.
Resolution 714 doesn’t require the county to enter the federal lawsuit but simply states council support of those seeking stricter standards.
The resolution supports the FCC’s updated safety regulations and procedures used to test levels of exposure to radio frequency and electromagnetic fields emitted from wireless devices and equipment.
The Natural Resources Defense Council successfully challenged a 2018 FCC order that proposed to eliminate environmental and historic review for certain cell towers and other wireless infrastructure. Its attorney says the most recent FCC rule makes that order useless because it allows the FCC to skip environmental review if the facility meets 1996 FCC standards.
“As long as a wireless service provider certifies that the construction it proposes meets the FCC’s (radio frequency) standards, no environmental analysis is required,” said attorney Sharon Buccino in an Aug. 5 court filing.
South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Maile David, who co-sponsored the resolution with Puna Councilman Matt Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder, said the public has demonstrated concerns about the technology, and the council needs to make a statement.
“We want to make sure the safety and health of the community will be considered, especially in this day and age when technology is going crazy,” David said.
Scores of testifiers came out in July to support a previous nonbinding resolution calling for telecommunication companies and public utilities operating in the county to halt 5G development until independent research and testing concludes it is safe for humans.
Many testifiers, and subsequent writers of letters to the editors of the island newspapers, didn’t seem to understand the resolution that passed 8-1 was merely a statement of position by the council and had no authority to require anything of the telecommunications companies.
Still, Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder, who sponsored the first resolution, and Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas wanted to make it clear they aren’t opposed to technology after they heard from constituents objecting to the resolution. The Big Island still has big coverage gaps for cellphones and internet, and the county is using some of its federal coronavirus relief funds to try to patch those gaps with mobile hot spots in the era of distance learning, telemedicine and social distancing.
“In no way do we want to take away from people being connected,” Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder said.
Kohala Councilman Tim Richards, who has voted against the previous resolution, supported the current one because he said it addresses all radio frequency radiation sources, not just 5G.
“This would appear to address that,” Richards said. “It would appear that if used appropriately all of this can be safe.”
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