Editor’s Note: This story was written by a member of a group of citizens that recently stopped a major cell tower from being placed in their Colorado community.
(March 22, 2016) It all came together at a neighborhood church on what would become a dramatically stormy night in the Northern Colorado town of Fort Collins. Unlikely bed-follows found themselves packed shoulder to shoulder into a 15 x 40 room of more than 100. An iconic telecommunications company; dozens of concerned citizens, including their kids; and the church elders and parishioners – all brought together by a remarkable supermom, come community organizer. They were here to discuss a most controversial topic, which, for the first time in almost two decades is finally making its way back into the national conversation.
Over the preceding weeks, the University Acres neighborhood had come together in a big way to speak out on the proposed installation of a six-panel cell tower to be ensconced in the spire of the LifePointe Church on Prospect Road. Like more than 100,000 times since 2004, a major cellular carrier once again was pushing for greater cell coverage for their network. While the approval process for new cell towers has come to be a slam dunk in the US, this time things would be different.
At issue were the potential health impacts from the cell tower’s close proximity to a residential community and Lesher Middle School, which lay a scant 150 yards west of the church. Meanwhile residents had uncovered more than 6000 studies showing harm from electromagnetic radiation (EMR). All this coupled with the emergence of new science emboldened the community to speak out.
In the weeks leading up to the community meeting, Heather Lahdenpera had worked tirelessly to first alert the community of the impending decision, and then catalyze broad engagement across more than one third of the residents nearby. What makes this so spectacular is that few communities have acted with so much passion and resolve since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 took away the rights of citizens to challenge the siting of a cell tower based on health concerns.
But there was something new here. The church elders themselves willingly opened the door for community input. Unlike so many churches across the US, which have never informed their congregation of the microwave radiation raining down from above only yards away in their church tower, LifePointe invited the community to openly express its view. The compassion of the church elders was stunning. It felt like being suddenly catapulted back to a previous era: a time where character and caring trumped economic imperatives and big corporate interests. The elders had broken an essential rule in the Verizon playbook; “never engage with the nearby community,” when navigating the approval process of siting a cell tower.
Fort Collins, Colorado – Just one of many communities world-wide that are waking up to the harm caused by cell phone towers.
The meeting featured two presenters. The first, a hired gun, who flew in from the state of Washington, was positioned as an expert in non-ionizing radiation. The other was a researcher, who presented an emerging scientific theory, which connects the current pandemic of chronic disease in America with a single molecule in the body. The presenter calls the dangerous ion, peroxynitrite, P-Factor. P-Factor is apparently triggered in the body from excessive sugar and various environmental toxins — most notably microwave radiation from wireless signals.
Following the presentations, the community was vocal. At least a dozen individuals spoke passionately about the consequences of having a cell tower close by. One resident claimed, “My nine-year old would go to that school, but she won’t if there is a cell tower there.” One thirteen-year-old student at Lesher expressed concern about the long-term health effects and then decried, “I don’t want to be harmed and have my life ruined by a cell tower.” Ms. Lahdenpera noted that cell towers under 200 feet require no registration with the FCC and are not actually monitored in the US. She then implored the church elders to observe the “precautionary principle,” a widely adopted regulatory approach based on exercising precaution that is popular in Europe. Finally, one long-time resident, after having expressed her appreciation to the elders for holding the community meeting, went on to say, “I do have concerns… life is precious for all the issues raised here. I would appreciate it if the church would see the light!”
Perhaps the most poignant moment of the evening came when a Lesher middle-schooler spoke out. He pointed out that the 1996 Telecommunications Act prevents local town councils from hearing any discussion of health effects in challenging the siting of a cell tower in the US. As he found his footing, a fresh passion emblazoned the twelve year-old, who railed at the idea that a citizen’s right to free speech could be restricted in this way. Youth has a way of telling it like it is. The student went on to quote the first amendment of the US Constitution accurately and in its entirety to make his point.
By 9 PM the meeting had come to a close. An unlikely combination of tears, anger, respect and raw candor poured out in waves from the community. The pastor of LifePointe then brought the meeting to a close with a rousing commitment to make a decision based on “love,” rather than “fear.” While the fate of the tower remained uncertain, there was a palpable electricity in the air as the many different stakeholders filed out of the church side by side. The community had eloquently expressed their feelings in no uncertain way. Many were tactful, appealing to the church to do the right thing and protect the children’s health. Others strongly challenged the case for the tower to be sited in this neighborhood, pointing to the precarious case for safety of cellular networks.
Precisely at 1:17 on Wednesday, March 23rd an email went out from the church to the community. According to the New Testament, this would be the week that Jesus threw the merchants and money-changers out of the temple. To a euphoric community, the lead Pastor announced that the church would withdraw its intention to place a Verizon tower on its premises. The merchants and money changers had indeed been thrown out of this church!
For possibly the first time since 1996, history had been made. Free and open debate had actually taken place on a topic that the US Congress had made off-limits. In the shadow of the majestic Rockies, in a cozy little neighborhood in the heart of Fort Collins all views were welcome; no speech denied. Nurses, professors, moms, business people, veterans, parishioners and children freely offered their views on the possible health effects from siting of a cell tower. This moment provided a welcome reminder on just how our democracy was designed to work. The will of these people was heard. For an instant, free speech on this controversial topic was reclaimed!
Still the long shadow of Section 704 of the Telecommunications ACT casts a veil of darkness over an important topic, which obfuscates what is in the hearts and minds of Americans across the land. As a consequence, citizens everywhere will miss the incredible nuggets of truth so intimately and beautifully shared among an amazing community of neighbors and a most honorable church community in Fort Collins one wild and stormy evening in March.
Editor’s Note: To understand just how the telecommunications industry has been allowed to place cell towers anywhere they wish over the objections of communities, read this recent book from Norm Alster and the Harvard School of Ethics: http://ethics.harvard.edu/files/center-for-ethics/files/capturedagency_alster.pdf
Thank you so much for sharing this article about the courageous folks in Fort Collins, CO. Before moving here to Nebraska from Wisconsin in 2014, I was involved in a community action movement to keep a cell tower from being positioned on a school grounds in the City of Waukesha.
The people prevailed and the project was halted. Shortly after that time, Wisconsin passed a law stating that municipalities could no longer stop the installation of cell phone towers in any community. That was a sad day!
The industry clearly has gotten the upper hand, and looks like the people’s health concerns are of no interest to them, whatsoever. Greed is rampant in our technologically advanced society. Yes, we love our cell phones and all the other wireless ‘stuff’ we use but consider the cost.
R. Ruddock, Nebraska
Ruth – please contact me ASAP. Thanks dafna@WeAreTheEvidence.org
Construction is going up practically in my backyard. I feel my life and that of my family is in jeopardy. We were not notified and only discovered the permit had been granted when we saw the construction. Please contact me if there is any possible way to fight this.
The best route is to raise community awareness and put pressure on the land owners who have entered into the contract with Verizon. Many communities have stopped towers by doing this.
Here are some articles that speak to this:
Is it a tower on a building or on an existing utility pole?
180 feet tower causing visual pollution of the view of the sunset.
Here is an inspiring video of this cell tower situation. Lots of good info on the International Association of Fire Fighters ban on cell towers as well:
This is very good news and congratulations to everybody who participated in it. However there is one important correction I’ll offer.
In this article the author used the term “health effects”.
“Perhaps the most poignant moment of the evening came when a Lesher middle-schooler spoke out. He pointed out that the 1996 Telecommunications Act prevents local town councils from hearing any discussion of health effects in challenging the siting of a cell tower in the US.”
You can’t blame a middle school student for not knowing the law but he does not know the law. The federal law we are talking about does not use that term, does not limit a local government’s ability to regulate cell tower placement based on it.
The federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 limits the consideration of environmental effects of radio frequency emissions by state and local governments so long as the proposed project complies with FCC requirements. This is referring to section 704 of the Act, which is codified in 47 U.S.C. §332(c)(7)(B)(iv), which says:
“(iv) No State or local government or instrumentality thereof may regulate the placement, construction, and modification of personal wireless service facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions to the extent that such facilities comply with the Commission’s regulations concerning such emissions.”
(That link is the entire law but to find the above section do a “find on this page” and put in “704”. It is used twice on that page.)
Environmental effects and health effects are 2 different things. Section 704 only limits the ability of a local government to regulate cell tower placement based on “environmental effects” but not based on “health effects”.
Here is one definition of environment.
1. the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.
synonyms: habitat, territory, domain;
2. the natural world, as a whole or in a particular geographical area, especially as affected by human activity.
I would define “health” as a person’s physical and mental well being. One could be in perfect health but in a hazardous environment, such as living next to a toxic waste dump. Or one could be in terrible health but in a very healthy environment, such as having stage 4 brain and liver cancer while living in a remote forest with clean air, water, and land.
Since “health” is not called out in the Act, and “environmental” does not mean “health,” health effects can be used as the basis for regulation by local government.
Also, I loved this line:
Finally, one long-time resident, after having expressed her appreciation to the elders for holding the community meeting, went on to say, “I do have concerns… life is precious for all the issues raised here. I would appreciate it if the church would see the light!”
Keep up the good work.
Excellent point Mark. Thank you for sharing.
Also of note: The City of Berkeley just denied a major cell tower application and listed health and safety as one of the reasons:
Readers can see the full denial here:
This story from Hillsborough, CA is also a wonderful example of a community coming together to stop 16 cell towers:
I’m reading more about the 5G rollout that is coming (ie: Sacramento, CA) and wondering if you will comment on it, especially how it will affect those of us who are already electrosensitive.
Great to hear from you!
The short answer is that I wouldn’t worry about this issue out in Nebraska. Very little will change there for many, many years. The business case for 5G only makes sense in densely populated areas.
Here is an article I did write about 5G and all the technologies it involves:
Thank you for your reply, Jeromy. I read the article you wrote on 5G and the technologies it involves….very good information to have. Wishing that the general public would have this information BEFORE the infrastructure is put in place, and perhaps then it could be stopped. That doesn’t seem to be happening though….any articles that I post on my FB page regarding this type of information are never responded to, but the silly cat videos always get a reply! It is so sad. The industry has certainly done a great job of convincing people to just accept what’s coming and enjoy the convenience of it all. This has to change! Thanks, also, for letting me know that I need not worry about my state for many, many years, since we are so rural out here. Still, Mr. Wheeler has said that they will reach every corner of the country, including the rural areas. Not sure how that would apply to us, since we don’t use wireless here at our house, and our neighbors are very far apart from us…it wouldn’t make sense I would think. Still, we will continue to have to go into cities for shopping, car repairs, etc., etc., so avoiding the 5G may not be an option for long. I plan to contact my senators about SB19 and SB88 this coming week….I may be just one voice “crying in the wilderness,” but I will be counted as doing my part on this.
Thank you, again, for your excellent updates, Jeromy.
Our neighborhood is fighting property owners (who do not live on the property) that signed a lease agreement in December with Verizon. We were mislead with wrong and dishonest information in the mail so most didn’t get to the required “public meeting”, and we now are gearing up for the Public Hearing in front of our County Commission on Sept. 13th who can approve or deny the application for the conditional use permit required to erect this thing. This cell tower will be on residential zoned land, literally 60 steps from our pool, and 80 steps from our home we just built, and surrounded by thriving neighborhoods. 🙁 I am organizing and rallying the troops. I have started REACT Unite Organization, we have acquired attorneys for input/help, and going door to door for petition signatures from the 60+ homes within the 1,000 ft of this tower, as well as online petitioning. If anyone has information that will help us in our case to the County, we could use your help!
Sorry you are going through this, but great work for taking strong action.
I know of many communities that have stopped these towers. The #1 thing they do is get the community involved and educated. I know of one mother in the Midwest that went door-to-door with cookies, her kids and very good flyers to raise awareness and gather signatures. Within two days of her doing this, the country club that was considering putting the Verizon tower up was inundated with calls and shelved the plans permanently.
You can do this too. People are waking up to how dangerous these towers are. Just keep going. . .
Keep us posted.