A bill to cut nighttime electricity use from state buildings in an attempt to reduce light pollution continued to gain traction this week following Committee vote wins earlier in April.
Assembly Bill 2382, authored by Assemblyman Alex Lee (D-Palo Alto), would require state agencies to have all outdoor lighting fixtures on state owned, managed, or leased buildings to meet new electricity limitation standards between 11 P.M. and sunrise the next day. Standards would include requiring lighting fixtures to be equipped with 15 minutes of no use motion activation, lighting to have automatic shutoff devices on them, and other restrictions such as shielding light to prevent it from contributing to light pollution.
A large number of exemptions were included in AB 2382, including lights used by airports and for aircraft safety, outdoor lights used for worker safety, lighting for emergency services, lighting for tunnels and highway overpasses, and lighting used for construction or renovation purposes. If passed, the new standards would need to be updated and in place by January 1st, 2023.
Assemblyman Lee wrote the bill due to light pollution doubling nationwide since the late 1990s, contributing to several negative environmental effects including disorienting many birds who rely on darker skies and magnetic fields to navigate as well as other wildlife and ecosystem issues. Environmentalists armed Lee with the information to craft AB 2382 earlier this year due to the growing issue, with its passage last week in the Assembly prompting many other environmental groups to join in support.
“Birds are adapted for flying at night in darkness, not in light,” Golden Gate Audubon Society Executive Director Glenn Phillips said earlier this week. “And their vision at night actually depends on darkness in order to actually sense the magnetic fields of the earth. And when it’s too light, they can’t sense them and they get disoriented And so, all those birds are coming through [the Bay Area] and they can’t avoid the light. They can’t go around it. They have to go through it.”
“The bill, simply put, requires that all State buildings have a light shield, so basically, a physical shield, or are motion activated so they’re not constantly on,” Assemblyman Lee said. “And that will reduce our energy consumption and reduce light pollution. It’s a small change. Kind of perceived as a small change, but it actually has immense impact on the natural and built environment, too.”
Bill authors missed a few major points that would have increased support amongst remaining opponents
While no known opposition has currently come out against the bill yet, with AB 2382 even passing the Assembly Business and Professions Committee 19-0 last week with bipartisan support, some experts note that bill supporters may want to broaden the message to ensure total passage.
“Reducing light pollution and protecting the environment is fine, but many lawmakers and citizens mainly focus on money matters first,” Dom Antonucci, an environmentalist who has helped advise on local light pollution ordinances in several states, told the Globe on Tuesday. “I’m the type of guy who wants to see dams go and more species be protected by the government, but we also need to see what can be reasonably done for such a problem. And if you can’t hit them in the heart you hit them in the wallet. California supporters should find out just how much the state stands to save in electricity bills by putting these in place, or point out that it will help reduce brownouts during the summer or during other times when the grid is stressed. Those points usually get a lot of naysayers, and I’m surprised that they haven’t used those yet.”
“They should definitely track it though and then show how much businesses can save if they use those methods to cut down on lights during the night. This way, light pollution goes down and businesses and building owners save money. Win-win. But right now, first step is to pass the bill.”
AB 2382 is set to be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee next.
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