NRDC filed an Amicus Brief in EHT’s lawsuit against the FCC. EHT’s legal appeal in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit charges that the FCC violated numerous laws and glossed over substantial evidence when it decided on December 4, 2019  that FCC radio frequency limits and regulations — established in 1996 — still provide adequate protection and could remain unchanged.

“Numerous scientific studies were available to the FCC if it had taken its environmental review responsibilities seriously.  Instead, the FCC stuck its head in the sand and did not even mention many of these studies of potential environmental harm in its 2019 order.”- NRDC Amicus Brief August 5, 2020


  • The FCC’s December 4, 2019 order compromises interests of amici in three critical ways:

    (1) The FCC failed to complete an Environmental Impact Statement under NEPA before terminating its inquiry into the adequacy of its radiofrequency (RF) standards.
    (2) The FCC’s inadequate health standards excuse wireless service providers from conducting environmental review even though these services may expose humans and the environment in which they live to harmful radiation.
    (3)The FCC’s order renders any environment review that is done inadequate because it is based on inadequate health standards. Rather than conduct new analysis of the potential environmental harm its actions may cause, the FCC will simply point to its decision in its December 4 order that its RF standards are adequate to satisfy NEPA. This might be fine if the FCC supported its decision with sufficient evidence. As explained by Petitioners, the Commission did not.”

    Previous generations of macro towers could be built several miles apart, but the 5G millimeter wave spectrum simply cannot propagate long distances over a few thousand feet — let alone a few hundred. As a result, the FCC anticipates ‘hundreds of thousands of wireless facilities’ will be deployed in the next few years, ‘equal to or more than the number providers have deployed in total over the last few decades.  As the 5G buildout continues, Americans are forced to ‘live with involuntary 24/7 radiation.’”

  • “In addition to its impact on humans, radiofrequency radiation poses harmful effects to flora and fauna. In a review of 113 studies from peer-reviewed publications, seventy percent of the studies concluded that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields had a significant effect on birds, insects and plants. In a 2013 literature review, the authors concluded that even for short exposure periods (<15 mins to a few hours), non-thermal effects were seen that can persist for long periods.”
  • Scientific research also indicates that electromagnetic fields can disrupt navigation abilities of migratory birds.”
  • “Numerous scientific studies were available to the FCC if it had taken its environmental review responsibilities seriously.  Instead, the FCC stuck its head in the sand and did not even mention many of these studies of potential environmental harm in its 2019 order.”
  • NEPA requires the commission to analyze the environmental impacts — including those of radiofrequency radiation — of its authorization of wireless service providers. The Telecommunications Act goes further and imposes an affirmative duty on the FCC to protect the public from environmental effects of radiofrequency radiation.”
  • “Despite numerous scientific studies of potential harm from exposure below the limits set by the FCC in 1996, the commission chose not to change (them). The FCC misunderstands its responsibilities under NEPA and the TCA. As a result, the record lacks the support for the FCC’s decision to continue to rely upon its 1996 limits for RF exposure.”
  • Although the FCC has aggressively limited state and local authority to protect the public from the environmental effects of RF radiation, it has failed to collect and review the information it needs to support its own RF radiation standards, which were last updated in 1996.
  • “In addition to barring state and local regulation of the environmental effects of RF radiation, Congress limited EPA oversight by eliminating EPA’s funding for activities related to RF radiation. At the time, EPA was poised to issue new standards for RF radiation. It had briefed both the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration regarding its work to develop RF exposure guidelines.
  • “EPA informed the FCC that it would have final guidelines by early 1996 based on technical input from the Radiofrequency Interagency Work Group (RFIAWG) in which the FCC participated. EPA never completed this work. By eliminating EPA’s funding for it, Congress gave the FCC the authority to control limits on RF radiation from wireless services.’
  • “The FCC’s December 4, 2019, action ignores this new technology and its impacts.  Such failure to ‘consider an important aspect of the problem’ is exactly the kind of arbitrary and capricious decision-making the Administrative Procedure Act prohibits.”
  • Moreover, the commission offered no meaningful response to the numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies received as part of the inquiry that raised concerns about the environmental effects from exposure to radiation below the FCC’s limits.  The FCC’s inadequate RF standards preclude adequate environmental review.”

About NRDC

The NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an environmental organization that has been on the forefront of the environmental movement since the 1970s working to ensure the rights of all people to clean air, clean water, and healthy communities.

Previously, NRDC and several Native American tribes worked with attorney Ed Myers, who is representing EHT on this case. They successfully challenged a 2018 FCC order halting the elimination of environmental and historic review for certain cell towers and wireless infrastructure.

The elected officials signing onto the amicus brief include mayors and council members from Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, California and Hawaii.


  • Teresa Barrett, Mayor of the City of Petaluma, Petaluma, California
  • Tawn Beliger, Northfield Township Trustee, Northfield, Michigan
  • Larry Bragman, Marin Municipal Water District, Marin County, California Cheryl Davila, Member, City Council of Berkeley, California
  • Cindy Dyballa, City Councilmember, City of Takoma Park, Maryland
  • Michael Eger, District One Councilor, West Springfield, Massachusetts
  • Renee Goddard, Mayor, Town of Fairfax, California
  • Paul Hebert, Barnstable Town Councilor, Barnstable, Massachusetts
  • Kacy Kostiuk, City Councilmember, City of Takoma Park, Maryland
  • Peter Kovar, City Councilmember, City of Takoma Park, Maryland
  • Caitlin Quinn, Trustee, Petaluma City School Board, Petaluma, California
  • Terry J. Seamens, City Councilmember, City of Takoma Park, Maryland
  • Kathrin Sears, Marin County Supervisor, District 3, Marin County, California
  • Jarrett Smith, City Councilmember, City of Takoma Park, Maryland
  • Kate Stewart, Mayor, City of Takoma Park, Maryland
  • Kelly Takaya King, Council Member, County of Maui, Hawaii
  • Rebecca Villegas, County of Hawaii – Council District 7, Hawaii County, Hawaii
  • Tina Wildberger, Hawaii State Representative, House District 11, South Maui: Kihei, Wailea, Makena, Hawaii

FOUR AMICUS BRIEFS in support of the legal appeal against the FCC: Source: Environmental Health Trust