July 24, 2014

Cell Tower Emissions (or Radiation) - the Law

A heated topic which sometimes comes up in cell tower leasing and zoning is the safety of the emissions (some call it radiation) from cell towers. 

First the law.  The Federal cell tower zoning law expressly prevents zoning approvals from being based on a cell tower’s “radio frequency emissions” to the extent the tower complies with FCC emission regulations.  This preemption provision is not unique – the same principle applies generally to radio, TV and other radio transmitters.  This is because the FCC claims exclusive jurisdiction over radio frequency emissions.  It has set safety rules for such emissions that apply to all radio transmitters.  As a result it and the courts have preempted state and local governments which have tried to regulate various types of towers based on their radio frequency emissions.

Second, given the law, what can a zoning authority do?  It can require a cell phone company to run tests to show that the installation complies with the FCC’s rules.  It can take action if these rules are violated.  And it should look to other grounds to legitimately deny or condition zoning approval.

But in general it should not allow testimony about the adverse effects of RF radiation.  I’ll get into that, related practical advice and RF radiation in the leasing context in my next post.

© 2014 Varnum LLP

About the Author

John W. Pestle, Varnum Law Firm, Construction Law Attorney

John is co-chair of the firm’s Cable and Telecommunications Practice Group. He focuses on representing municipalities nationwide on cable and telecommunications matters including the grant, renewal and transfer of cable franchises, Wi-Fi and Wi-Max (wireless) agreements, telecommunications matters, right of way matters, cellular tower zoning, cell tower leasing and FCC proceedings. He has worked with over 200 communities in 15 states on such matters. He also represents municipal and cooperative utilities and...


Boost: AJAX core statistics

Legal Disclaimer

You are responsible for reading, understanding and agreeing to the National Law Review's (NLR’s) and the National Law Forum LLC's  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy before using the National Law Review website. The National Law Review is a free to use, no-log in database of legal and business articles. The content and links on are intended for general information purposes only. Any legal analysis, legislative updates or other content and links should not be construed as legal or professional advice or a substitute for such advice. No attorney-client or confidential relationship is formed by the transmission of information between you and the National Law Review website or any of the law firms, attorneys or other professionals or organizations who include content on the National Law Review website. If you require legal or professional advice, kindly contact an attorney or other suitable professional advisor.  

Some states have laws and ethical rules regarding solicitation and advertisement practices by attorneys and/or other professionals. The National Law Review is not a law firm nor is  intended to be  a referral service for attorneys and/or other professionals. The NLR does not wish, nor does it intend, to solicit the business of anyone or to refer anyone to an attorney or other professional.  NLR does not answer legal questions nor will we refer you to an attorney or other professional if you request such information from us. 

Under certain state laws the following statements may be required on this website and we have included them in order to be in full compliance with these rules. The choice of a lawyer or other professional is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements. Attorney Advertising Notice: Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Statement in compliance with Texas Rules of Professional Conduct. Unless otherwise noted, attorneys are not certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, nor can NLR attest to the accuracy of any notation of Legal Specialization or other Professional Credentials.

The National Law Review - National Law Forum LLC 4700 Gilbert Ave. Suite 47 #230 Western Springs, IL 60558  Telephone  (708) 357-3317 If you would ike to contact us via email please click here.