LANSING – Despite a room packed largely with opponents to the package, the House Energy Policy Committee reported legislation Thursday that would set terms and fees for permits for new 5G cellular systems.
The bills (SB 637 and SB 894) moved without changes from the Senate versions, but on 15-4 votes with bipartisan concerns raised about the possible health effects of the additional radio transmissions.
Some local governments raised concerns that the fees outlined in the bills, $20 per year, would not be sufficient to cover their costs.
“We’re going to have to subsidize this effort with our road money,” Oakland County deputy executive Phil Bertolini told the committee. Other officials from Oakland and Wayne counties agreed that the fees in the bills would not cover reviewing plans and inspecting cell antennae once they are installed.
Local concerns were largely dismissed by committee members, several noting that the Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan Townships Association had been involved in negotiations in the Senate and had been neutral.
Rep. Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township) said the $20 covers only the annual rent on a municipally owned power or light pole. She said there is nothing in the bills that would prevent local governments from charging fees to cover initial reviews and inspections.
Dennis Kolar, managing director for the Road Commission of Oakland County, said any other fees local governments might charge would be challenged in court if the bills did not specifically allow them.
Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) questioned the need for any fees given that three counties in his district charge nothing for the installations. He also asked about stories that a recent contract between Oakland County and Sprint was funding building improvements for the road commission.
Mr. Kolar said to the building improvements that the county would otherwise have to use road funds to make those renovations.
Testimony from medical professionals and some in the general public raised concerns with some committee members about the health effects of installing the additional radio equipment.
Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Williams Township) voted against the bills but said he was only urging caution on moving forward with the new technology.
Dr. Angie Colbeck, a pediatrician and wife of Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton Township), said electro-magnetic radiation such as emissions from the proposed cell antennae has been linked in more than 1,000 studies to cancer, attention deficit disorders, immunity disorders and fertility problems.
“We should not be pursuing policies that expose ourselves, our families, our friends,” she said. “From a medical perspective, this will be disastrous.”
Ms. Colbeck said the transmission levels should be set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which employ health professionals, not the Federal Communications Commission.
“The FCC chair has no health experience,” she said.
Dr. Sharon Goldberg with University of Miami Medicine said wireless transmissions have also been tied to onset or worsening of diabetes. “The closer you live to a cell tower, the higher your blood glucose,” she said of one study.
“These are things that have been glossed over by the wireless industry,” Ms. Goldberg said of the studies.
Officials with Verizon said the transmission limits set by the FCC keep radiation levels to less than will affect human health.
Ms. Lasinski said discussions of blocking 5G implementation in the state were moot given a recent declaratory ruling by the FCC pre-empting states on that issue.
Supporters said the bill filled holes in the FCC ruling. Opponents said several municipalities, including several large cities, were challenging the ruling as overstepping the FCC’s authority.
This story was published by Gongwer News Service.