Denver TV stations use Colorado Senators to preempt local land use for profitable antenna towers
After thousands of citizens and the city of Golden worked for eight years attempting to protect the Greater Golden area from an increase of electrosmog, Denver TV channels 4, 7, 9, and 20 paid Washington D.C. lobbyists to covertly “hotline” a bill through the U. S. Senate and House, December 6 to 9, 2006. Senate Bill 4092 was lumped in with 30+ other “noncontroversial” bills, without any vote of elected representatives or citizen participation, just before adjournment of the 109th Congress.
The bill, sponsored by Senators Ken Salazar and Wayne Allard, enables anyone with a FCC permit for broadcast digital television to build an antenna tower facility regardless of zoning on Lookout Mountain. The Denver TV stations have many options for towers on safe alternative sites. Although repeaters are necessary from all sites in mountain terrain, broadcast coverage of the Denver metro area is about the same from El Dorado Mountain, Mount Morrison, Squaw Mountain, Lookout Mountain and five other sites (www.HDTVhonestly.com/sites.htm). But the stations, organized as Lake Cedar Group, LLC, conducted an advertising campaign claiming Lookout Mountain was the ONLY site that could bring HDTV to Denver. This prepared the way for President Bush’s signature on Public Law No. 109-466:
Notwithstanding any applicable State or local land use or condemnation laws or regulations, and subject to all applicable Federal laws and regulations, any person that holds an approved Federal Communications Commission permit to construct or install either a digital television broadcast station antenna or tower, or both, located on Lookout Mountain in Jefferson County in the State of Colorado, may, at such location, construct, install, use, modify, replace, repair, or consolidate such antenna or tower, or both, and all accompanying facilities and services associated with such digital television broadcasts, if such antenna or tower is of the same height or lower than the tallest existing analog broadcast antenna or tower at such location.
What constitutes “Lookout Mountain” is not defined, and could be at least 2,300 acres. The highest tower is 843 feet. There are 23 applications for FCC permits to broadcast HDTV for the Denver area. Unlike existing analog, digital technology can be split into multiple channels. According to the Wall Street Journal, 50% of 24 million U.S. households with HDTVs don’t have the necessary hardware from their TV service provider. A survey also showed 12 million don’t realize they’re not watching HDTV.
Lake Cedar Group knew Jefferson County Commissioners Congrove, McCasky, and Hartman planned to respond in 2007 to Judge R. Brooke Jackson’s requirement to approve or deny a proposed Supertower approved by County Commissioners in 2003 after a similar proposal was denied in 1999 after two previous denials for the same location. Commissioners in 2003 did not account for alternative antenna tower sites, biological effects, and economic consequences from the existing 1,000 radio frequency devices operating on Lookout (including 20 high power broadcast antennas).
“A dangerous precedent is set when court decisions and local zoning are usurped through hidden last minute maneuvers by high-priced Washington lobbyists to get important local decisions decided in the closing minutes of Congressional session. This isn’t just about the towers...” says Deb Carney, attorney representing 9,000 mountain residents. “This is about the complete contempt they have shown for the courts and local governments.”
Dr. Gary Olhoeft, geophysics teacher and researcher at Colorado School of Mines said, “I’d like to see every school child in the state ask the Senators to explain this.” Existing radiation saturates the Greater Golden area within a five-mile radius causing interference with high-tech research, cell phone and emergency communication. The federal preemption ignored the outcome of the $900,000, NIH funded, research by CSU that clearly indicates biological effects from the existing proliferation. The FCC does not police electrosmog, so accountability must be managed locally with land use decisions.
These same media corporations attempted to get the FCC to preempt JeffCo’s denial in 1999. After the FCC requested public comment, preemption was opposed by a resolution of the Colorado Legislature, the National Association of Counties, National Municipal League and many cities that collectively represent 75% of Americans. CARE leaders commented “the dogged pursuit of Lookout Mountain to the exclusion of all other sites is irrational and defies sound business judgment.”
Why Lookout Mountain? It is the most convenient location and offers more potential for profit than other sites that have been available for HDTV antennas for the past six years. Some of the alternative sites do not allow tower height over 200 feet to prevent extreme radiation and visual blight of red blinking lights. Over-the-air HDTV technology requires a 200 foot tower and 4,000 sq.ft. building for four stations. The Denver stations want a 900 foot tower and 25,000+ sq.ft. building for unlimited rental spacea “vertical mall.”
HDTV is available for 90% of the Denver metro area that subscribe to cable or satellite service and the Internet is quickly replacing newspapers and local TV news. But citizens are not protected from electrosmog pollution. The FCC and Denver stations ignore federal rules for environmental protection and historic preservation (NEPA and NHPA). None of these facts have been honestly reported by Denver mass media. CNN, MSNBC, PBS, and programs like “60 Minutes” and “Frontline” refuse to investigate because it is “too political within the industry.”
The “news” is a profit center. According to the Christian Science Monitor, one of the few remaining independent news organizations, as much as 75% of local news is corporate press releases produced by public relations professionals (complete with illustration, photography or video). Media conglomerates are more powerful than pharmaceuticals, electronics, and oil. Print and broadcast news media control the public image of politicians in America.
Public Law No. 109-466 is unconstitutional, arrogant, abusive, and unnecessary. It will cause serious harm for 50,000 Greater Golden residents and their economy. Why did DeGette, Hefley, Udall, Musgrave, Tancredo, and John Salazar not speak up? Did Senator Ken Salazar gain unlimited nice publicity for the next ten years by allowing unlimited pollution by TV stations?
Carole Lomond Illustration by Lisa Haney
Note: Two of the estimated 270 JeffCo neighborhoods impacted by this federal preemption are featured in the Communities section on this web site.
3/12/07 Update: Jefferson county Commissioners Approve Towers. Learn more...
For more information, see Antenna Tower Update.