ARRL

ARRL General Bulletin ARLB014 (2000)

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ARLB014 US Appeals Court Upholds RF Exposure Regulations

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ARRL Bulletin 14  ARLB014
From ARRL Headquarters  
Newington CT  March 9, 2000
To all radio amateurs 

SB QST ARL ARLB014
ARLB014 US Appeals Court Upholds RF Exposure Regulations

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has upheld the FCC's
1996 RF exposure guidelines. The court also turned away a challenge
to the FCC's exclusive ability to regulate relevant radio facility
operations. The wide-ranging challenge was brought by the Cellular
Phone Taskforce joined by other petitioners including the
Communications Workers of America.

In an opinion released February 18, the three-judge panel upheld the
FCC against the challenges on all points.

The petitioners, in part, had claimed the FCC failed to account for
non-thermal effects of RF radiation, didn't evaluate new evidence,
failed to get expert testimony, and failed to account for
''scientific uncertainty'' about RF exposure in deciding to not lower
the maximum permissible exposure levels below the maximum permitted
thermal levels. The petitioners also faulted the FCC for adopting a
two-tiered MPE level system that allows for higher exposure in
''occupational/controlled'' situations than in ''general
population/uncontrolled'' situations.

Additionally, the Appeals Court:

* said the FCC was not irrational, arbitrary or capricious in its
decision and that it did not ignore ''substantial comments'' from
experts.

* noted that licensees are still responsible for compliance ''and an
interested person can petition the FCC for review of a site believed
to violate the MPE levels.''

* disagreed that an environmental impact statement was required from
the FCC.

* rejected the petitioners' arguments that by not considering RF
interference with medical devices, the FCC failed to take a hard
look at the environmental consequences of its actions.

* rejected arguments that the FCC did not enjoy broad preemption
authority over state or local government under the
Telecommunications Act of 1996 to regulate wireless service
facilities.

ARRL RF Safety Committee Chairman Greg Lapin, N9GL, credits the FCC
with being comprehensive in developing its RF safety regulations and
thinks the Appeals Court did the right thing. ''The FCC is not a
health and safety organization, and the Commission never intended
the rules to serve as a standard,'' Lapin said.

Lapin pointed out that the FCC's rules are based on accepted
American National Standards Institute/Institute of Electrical and
Electronics Engineers and National Council on Radiation Protection
and Measurements standards, ''which, in turn, are based on mountains
of research and the opinions of lots of experts,'' he said.

The resulting rules take into account a consensus of expert opinion
on the topic of RF safety. ''The appeals court recognized this in its
decision,'' Lapin said.
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