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Verizon takes Pittsfield to court over cell tower order

May 12, 2022 12:45 am

Meg Britton-Mehlisch is reporting for The Berkshire Eagle Verizon Wireless May 10, filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city of Pittsfield, Mass. Board of Health, in an effort to block an emergency order requiring the company to appear and defend its cell tower at 877 South Street in the city. In its complaint, the company asks the court to answer a question on the power of local boards and municipalities to regulate telecommunication companies over environmental and health concerns. Verizon wants the court to weigh in on whether the Board of Health's order violated the Telecommunications Act of 1996. At the request of Pittsfield City Council, the Board of Health has been investigating the health concerns reported by residents that live near the 4G cell tower, including headaches, dizziness, nausea, insomnia, skin rashes and other health problems. The Board of Health issued an emergency order on April 11 giving Verizon seven days to request a hearing to show why the board should not issue a cease-and-desist order. The board found that the cell tower “is a public nuisance” and “a cause of sickness” that “directly causes harm to certain individuals, and renders dwellings unfit for human habitation.” The members of the City Council this week held a lengthy executive session about the matter, but declined to comment afterward, citing pending litigation. Verizon is arguing the board's order violates the Telecommunications Act's preemption clause preventing state or local governments from regulating the placement, construction and modification of wireless service facilities on the basis of alleged environmental effects, as long as the facility is operating within the Federal Communications Commission's regulations on those emissions. Health effects, according to Verizon, are included within the scope of "environmental effects." The company maintains it is operating well within the FCC's standards for radio frequency emissions. Read more about this story in The Berkshire Eagle.