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City of Napa to oppose federal bill streamlining cell transmitter permits
Legislation

City of Napa to oppose federal bill streamlining cell transmitter permits

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A federal bill to speed the addition of cellular transmitters will not have the support of city leaders in Napa.

The City Council voted Tuesday to formally oppose Senate Bill 3157, which would limit the time period for local governments to review applications to install so-called small-cell transmitters used for wireless internet and voice services. The unanimous vote clears Napa to send a letter of opposition to Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, California’s two members in the U.S. Senate.

Opponents in state and city governments argue S. 3157 will strip local leaders of their ability to govern the placement and number of cell transmitters, or recover their full costs.

Introduced in June by Sens. John Thune, R-South Dakota, and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, S. 3157 aims to set a “shot clock” for states and cities to approve or deny cell transmitter applications.

The maximum review period could be as short as 60 to 90 days, extending as far as 150 days when reviewed by cities of fewer than 50,000 people.

If no decision is made by the deadline, a wireless permit would be “deemed granted” and allowed to be built.

In addition, local regulators could only set fees that recover the “actual and direct costs” of reviewing and processing inquiries, as well as cost of inspections, maintenance, and repairs or replacement required to install a cell transmitter.

With its letter, Napa will join the League of California Cities in opposing the Senate bill as allowing the federal government to usurp local control.

On the opposite side of the debate are two dozen organizations who in early October issued a letter supporting the Senate bill, saying the legislation would remove unnecessary roadblocks and expense to future fifth-generation wireless networks promising higher capacity and speeds. The letter’s signers included the Internet Association and Information Tech Industry Council – both of which count major tech firms as members – as well as the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Farms Union, Politico reported.

Napa’s stance against the Senate’s permit streamlining bill follows resistance by some residents against Verizon Wireless’ planned rollout of small-cell transmitters, which are a fraction of the size of full-strength wireless towers and typically mounted onto utility poles, stoplights and other city-owned fixtures. Verizon this spring disclosed plans to install 24 of the transmitters on various streets around the city.

At various council meetings, small-cell foes have argued the equipment creates eyesores, depresses home resale values and increases the risk of cancer for those living close by.

No clear consensus has emerged from published research on the connection between wireless signals and health effects. While a 2011 research paper by the United Nations’ World Health Organization described electromagnetic fields as a “possible” carcinogen, the American Cancer Society has said radio frequency waves from cell antennas are not powerful enough to break the chemical bonds in DNA molecules, as gamma rays and ultraviolet light do.

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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