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For Immediate Release: May 17, 2000
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

FCC PETITIONED FOR ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW ON UNDERSEA FIBER OPTIC CABLES

Agency Out of Compliance With NEPA


Washington, DC - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) today filed a rule-making petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for environmental reviews on all pending applications to lay submarine fiber optic cables across coral reefs and other sensitive ocean areas. The PEER petition asks for an emergency assessment of FCC compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which requires every federal agency to review potential environmental impacts of its actions.

PEER, an alliance of state and federal biologists, engineers and other specialists, based its petition on a growing number of instances where dredging, drilling and laying of fiber optic cables has destroyed fragile coral beds and fouled critical habitat for manatees, sea turtles and other endangered marine species. The petition was prompted by the lack of substantive environmental review of the nearly 50 pending applications for new submarine fiber optic cables along the Atlantic coast of Florida alone.

The FCC admits that it has no office of environmental compliance and relies on self-certification by applicants as to whether their activities would have no adverse impact. Failure to act on the PEER petition could trigger litigation which may halt all FCC licensing until the agency demonstrates compliance with NEPA.

"This petition gives the FCC a wake up call that it can no longer ignore its environmental responsibilities," stated PEER General Counsel Dan Meyer. "The era of corporate environmental self-certification is over."