A06357: Background info

A06357:Background Information and Status

Updated 6/25/99


Following the lead of several other states and numerous municipalities across the US in addressing the growing problem of excessive and misdirected lighting, the New York State Assembly is now considering a comprehensive light pollution bill. The measure, known as AO6357, was drafted by assemblyman Alexander "Pete" Grannis of the 65th Assembly District and amends the environmental conservation law to manage outdoor lighting in order to "conserve energy and to protect the nighttime environment." If the bill becomes law, it would be a significant contribution to curtailing the adverse effects of light pollution and to preserving the majesty of the night sky for us and for future generations.

The billÍs provisions address the major aspects of light pollution. First, since about 30% of all electricity generated for lighting in the US is wasted on misdirected light (costing the nation well over 1 billion dollars annually and producing unnecessary pollution from power plants), the bill calls for the installation of "full cutoff" fixtures to remedy the problem. Similarly, the proposed legislation would limit glare and light trespass, any unwanted illumination spilling across property lines that violates private property rights and invades privacy.

From our perspective as lovers of astronomy, however, A06357 is especially important since our night skies are increasingly threatened by light pollution from commercial, municipal, and residential sources. Indeed, if enacted, this bill not only would encourage sensible lighting across the state but would provide for the identification and designation of "dark areas . . . of the state which are especially suitable for astronomical observations." Clearly, with the long history of astronomical activity on Darling Hill, such a provision could ensure a dark and starry future for the society.

So what is the current status of the bill? Presently A06357 is in the Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee, having been introduced in early March. As it stands now, it will not be acted upon until the next legislative session, which runs from January through June. Once the session begins, if voted upon favorably in committee, it will be presented for a vote of the entire Assembly. Yet even if it gets a favorable vote in that chamber, its future is still uncertain since there is no corresponding senate version of the bill. If none is forthcoming, the bill will die.

So what can a member of the SAS do to promote this bill? According to Assemblyman Grannis's office several things are critical. The first is to become familiar with the basic rationale for the bill as outlined above. The second is to call (or better to write) your own state assembly representative explaining the need for A06357 and requesting support for the bill. Lastly, call or write to your own state senator about the importance of the bill and ask for sponsorship of a senate version. This latter aspect is particularly important because senate support - especially from Republican senators - is needed for the bill to have any chance of passage. Remember also to spread the word about light pollution to others, even if they are not astronomy buffs, since the energy saving and pollution prevention aspects of A06357 make it legislation that everyone can support. If we all make a little effort, we can see this bill through.

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