Stop the Tower
Leahy Press Release

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This press release is also on Sen. Leahy's home page. Questions about the Vermont Amicus Brief should be directed to Senator Leahy's Press Secretary, David Carle at: (202)224-3693.

Leahy Asks Supreme Court To Hear Towers Case On Behalf Of Vermont Citizens and the Vermont Delegation

As counsel of record, Sen. Patrick Leahy filed an amicus ("friend of the court") brief late Monday urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case challenging the constitutionality of federal law which preempts local control over the location of telecommunications towers.

Leahy wrote the brief and filed it on behalf of the Vermont Congressional Delegation, four Vermont State Senators and four Vermont Representatives, 68 Vermont communities, and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. This bipartisan coalition of elected officials, citizens groups and towns wants the usual state and local zoning rules to apply to the siting of towers instead of federal rules that may override local decision making.

One of the groups that would be helped by a victory in the Supreme Court is the lead petitioner, Citizens for the Appropriate Placement of Telecommunications Facilities. Formed in 1995, Citizens for the Appropriate Placement of Telecommunications Facilities has been fighting a telecommunications tower in Charlotte that they say is the source of numerous interference problems and health concerns. Shortly after the 199-foot cellular and radio tower was completed on Pease Mountain 12 years ago, Charlotte residents complained that they were hearing the signal through their telephones and other electronic appliances.

Leahy's brief, supported by Sen. Jim Jeffords and Rep. Bernie Sanders, several state lawmakers and 68 Vermont communities, argues that federal limitations on state and local zoning authorities violate the Tenth Amendment, which preserves certain state powers. In this case, the authority of the Federal Communications Commission to prevent local authorities from making zoning decisions on health, safety and local land use issue is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. Three years ago, Leahy introduced legislation to restore local authority in tower siting decisions by repealing a 1996 law that gave sole jurisdiction to the Federal Communications Commission. The bills to repeal federal preemption have been pending since then in both the Senate and the House. Sanders has introduced the counterpart to the Leahy bill in the House.

On Oct. 2, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to accept a related case brought by Charlotte residents arguing for more local control over the location and use of cellular and broadcast towers. This new brief raises a direct constitutional challenge to federal authority and is thus very different from the brief filed in the Charlotte appeal, which sought to have the court compel the owner of the Charlotte tower to live up to the deal it made with the town when it sought permission to build the tower.

Leahy made the following comment: "This case has important implications for communities that want to make siting decisions about telecommunications towers that may affect the value of homes and the quality of life for those living near the towers. Local officials should have input into the location and uses of these towers. There is a compelling case for local control over zoning matters, and we in Congress will continue to work toward a legislative solution if this appeal to the Supreme Court does not resolve this problem."

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