Battle Heats Up Over Environmental Review In California

Anita Taff-Rice's Telecommunications Law Legal Blogs

Licensed for 21 years

Attorney in Walnut Creek, CA

Anita Taff-Rice

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Serving Walnut Creek, CA

  • Serving Walnut Creek, CA

  • Free initial consultation, Fixed hourly rates, Fixed fees available

Founder at firm Law Offices of Anita Taff-Rice

Serving Walnut Creek, CA

Free initial consultation, Fixed hourly rates, Fixed fees available

The California Public Utilities Commission has issued General Order 170,
which will substantially improve the process for telecommunications
carriers to obtain environmental review under CEQA when they deploy new facilities
in California. The Order clarifies that the CPUC, not local
jurisdictions, will play the lead role in conducting environmental
reviews. The Order is intended by the CPUC to increase regulatory
certainty for carriers and expedite the deployment of fiber optic cable,
wireless antennas and associated infrastructure such as conduit and
utility poles to support the deployment of broadband services. The CPUC
concluded that broadband deployment is a matter of statewide concern,
and that it has the sole jurisdiction to ensure that the "clear and oft
reiterated policy" of the California legislature encouraging the
widespread deployment of advanced telecommunications services are
carried out. Although additional authorization for ministerial permits
may be required from other state agencies or local authorities, the CPUC
concluded that it is best suited to issue any required discretionary
permits and to evaluate the physical change in the environment caused by
carriers’ construction projects. The CPUC stated, "local Agencies may
not use their discretionary land use authority to effectively prohibit
projects that are in compliance with the operating authority granted by
the Commission." If a local jurisdiction has a dispute with a carrier
over a construction project, the local jurisdiction must come to the
CPUC for resolution. The Order replaces a hodge podge of environmental review rules that treated different carriers differently based on their order of entry to the market.  The new Order is intended to prevent the sometimes
years-long battles that carriers have encountered with local
anti-wireless opponents. Two groups have asked the CPUC to reconsider
its decision, but General Order 170 has not been stayed. Despite opposition from local jurisdictions, competitive telecom carriers  have begun filing construction projects with the CPUC for review under General Order 170.   For additional information on the ways that General Order 170 affects your company or city, contact Public Utilities Commission issues General Order 170 overhauling environmental review for telecom projects

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