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'Not Against Technology'

NH 5G Commission Chair Writing RF Safety Bill

A New Hampshire RF safety bill in development for next year would seek 1,600-foot wireless equipment setbacks and periodic measurements of wireless emissions, said author Rep. Patrick Abrami (R) in an interview. The possible bill follows a November report by Abrami and others on a state 5G commission that said the FCC could be ignoring wireless RF dangers due to industry influence (see 2011020046). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently remanded 2019 RF safety rules to the FCC.

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The D.C. Circuit decision changed the playing field for RF issues by putting “into doubt whether the FCC has really been doing its job,” said Abrami, who chaired the state 5G commission. There could be “biological issues that aren’t being addressed” and “maybe the state needs to step in and do something ... until the FCC can prove that their levels of acceptable RF are indeed accurate.” The Environmental Health Trust and allies plan an RF safety push at the FCC in coming months, following the D.C. Circuit order (see 2108160059 and 2108130073).

The bill isn't final and details are subject to change, but Abrami said his current draft would require wireless equipment to be 1,600 feet from where people may be, including on a sidewalk. “We think this is a reasonable distance” based on scientific studies in the commission report, he said. The draft bill would require annual RF emission measurements at sites to ensure compliance with FCC guidelines, said Abrami, saying he wishes the FCC would tighten those limits. Which state agency would conduct such tests is undecided, he said.

Abrami is “debating” whether to include a third part that would set up a mechanism for citizens to report feeling ill due to RF emissions to the state’s health department, he said. The FCC says health effects can’t be used to restrict deployment, but the state representative thinks the information could help the state look for trends and focus its attention if, for example, many reports crop up in one town.

Abrami plans to file the bill mid-September in the House for the session starting in January, though he can modify the draft bill until it’s assigned to a committee, he said. The committee may amend the bill or recommend against passage, but New Hampshire rules require all bills to get a floor vote, he said. Abrami said he spoke to Sen. Denise Ricciardi (R) about carrying the bill in the Senate if it's passed by the House. Ricciardi, a 5G commission member prior to her Senate election, emailed us Friday that she won’t commit to supporting a bill she hasn’t seen.

A CTIA spokesperson declined to comment on the possible bill, referring us instead to an earlier statement on the New Hampshire 5G commission report. The wireless association said then that RF energy from wireless devices and networks hasn’t been shown to cause health problems according to the FDA, World Health Organization and American Cancer Society. CTIA Assistant Vice President-State Legislative Affairs Bethanne Cooley was a New Hampshire 5G commission member but joined a minority report saying the majority failed to read all the science and ignored 5G’s economic and societal benefits. State Sen. James Gray (R) and New Hampshire Business and Industry Association interim President David Juvet also signed the minority report. Neither commented now.

Before the election was decided last November, an FCC spokesperson agreed with the New Hampshire report’s minority, slamming the majority findings as “lending credence to alarmist fears with no basis in fact.” The FCC declined to comment Monday.

We’re not against technology,” and won’t “be taking people’s cellphones away,” stressed Abrami. His bill wouldn’t address everything from the 5G commission’s report, such as a recommendation that state schools and libraries should migrate to wired connections. The Republican legislator didn’t want a “gigantic bill,” he said. “We know it’s going to be hard enough to pass as it is.”

Abrami’s proposed bill would keep New Hampshire ahead of other states considering RF safety, said Massachusetts for Safe Technology Director Cecelia Doucette: She hopes growing state interest and the recent court decision means the country is reaching a “pivot point” in the debate. Massachusetts could soon set up its own commission to study RF effects through a bill (SB-186) in the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure that could get a hearing this fall, said Doucette. New York similarly proposed study bills (S-5926/A-6448) that await consideration.

Oregon legislators might have a fall hearing on the Oregon Health Authority’s late 2020 report (see 2101040028) finding insufficient evidence linking cellphones and cancer, said Doucette. Oregon legislative committees are scheduled to meet Sept. 21-24 for informational hearings.