Topic:
ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY; LEGISLATION; POLLUTION CONTROL;
Location:
ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION AND POLICY; POLLUTION CONTROL;

OLR Research Report


November 29, 2006

 

2006-R-0723

LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES ON LIGHT POLLUTION

By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst

You asked for a discussion of the legislature's efforts to address light pollution. OLR Report 2000-R-1168 describes initiatives in other states on this issue.

SUMMARY

Light pollution can take several forms, including glare and light trespass, i.e., light shining beyond the boundaries of the property where the light source is located.

The legislature passed legislation addressing light pollution in 1995, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2006. The initial legislation required that state and municipal highway lighting be designed to maximize energy conservation and minimize glare and light spilling on to neighboring properties. It also generally required that highway lighting be designed to prevent light from going above the lamp. A 2003 act regulated floodlights located within the rights-of-way of state highways.

Another 2003 act addressed lighting on state buildings and state facility grounds. This act was vetoed, as was similar legislation in 2005 and 2006. Ultimately, PA 06-86 required that such lighting be designed to minimize light pollution and generally required that it be equipped with full cut-off luminaires, which prevent light from going above the lamp.

LIGHT POLLUTION LEGISLATION

1995

PA 95-217 requires that a roadway lighting system funded by the state (1) be designed to maximize energy conservation and minimize glare and light spilling onto adjoining properties and (2) provide the minimum amount of lighting needed for its purpose. Under the Act, State funds can be used only if the Department of Transportation (DOT) determines that the lighting needs cannot be met by reducing the speed limit in the area or by reflective or passive lighting. The latter approach includes reflectorized roadway markings, lines, warnings, and informational signs. Lights that can produce 1,800 lumens or more (those with a 125 watt bulb) on the state's secondary and special service highways must be designed to prevent light going above the lamp, so long as this does not compromise the highway's safety, increase the cost of the lighting, or violate federal law. The transportation commissioner can waive this requirement if he determines it is necessary. The request for a waiver must describe the lighting plan and the efforts the applicant has made to comply with the requirement and include other information the commissioner requires. In reviewing the request, the commissioner must consider design safety, costs, and other factors he considers appropriate.

These provisions do not apply if the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) (1) analyzes the cost of fixtures that meet these requirements and fixtures that do not over the fixture's lifetime and (2) certifies that the fixtures that meet the requirements are not cost effective and are not the best alternative. The act does not apply to lighting intended to be used for less than seven days.

2001

PA 01-134 extended requirements that are nearly identical to those of PA 95-217 to (1) lighting bought with municipal funds and (2) lighting installed by a utility company when municipal funds pay its operating costs. It allows municipal chief elected officials to waive the requirements. Municipal funds include bond revenue and any money a municipality appropriates or allocates.

2003

PA 03-113, which was vetoed, would have banned the use of state funds to install or replace an outdoor light or lighting system on state building or facility grounds that:

1. failed to maximize energy conservation and minimize light pollution, glare, and light trespass;

2. provided light at a surface that exceeds what is adequate for its intended purpose; or

3. had an output of more than 1,800 lumens, unless it is equipped with a full cut-off luminaire (a lighting system that allows no direct light emissions above a horizontal plane through its lowest light-emitting part).

The act would have allowed two exceptions to the cut-off requirement. It would have (1) exempted lighting systems on the grounds of a Department of Correction (DOC) correctional institution or facility from this requirement and (2) set conditions under which the public works commissioner, or his designee, could waive the cut-off requirement for other state buildings or facilities when necessary.

The vetoed act also would have exempted a new or replacement lighting system from its requirements if the OPM secretary finds that a non-complying system is more cost-effective than a system that meets the act's requirements. Substantially similar provisions were adopted with the passage of PA 06-86.

PA 03-210, which was signed by the governor, (1) prohibits floodlights intended to illuminate private property from being located in a state highway right-of-way unless they meet certain light pollution reduction and other requirements, (2) prohibits a floodlight from being located in a state highway right-of-way if the private property it is intended to illuminate is across the highway from the utility pole on which it would be mounted, and (3) requires any existing luminaire that violates either of the above requirements to be brought into compliance with the act by October 1, 2005. The act defines a floodlight as a luminaire with an output greater than 1,800 lumens and a luminaire as the complete lighting system, including the lamp and fixture.

2005

PA 05-286, which was vetoed, primarily dealt with state contracting. But it also would have generally banned the use of state bond revenues or appropriated or allocated state funds for outdoor lighting that was not energy efficient or that exceeded the brilliance required to achieve its purpose. In addition, the act would have given violators of law regulating the use of floodlights on private property more time to comply with the law. PA 03-210 required all violators to comply by October 1, 2005. Under the act, approximately 20% would have had to comply each year until full compliance was reached by October 1, 2009.

2006

PA 06-1, which was vetoed, was very similar to PA 05-286.

PA 06-86 bans the use of state bond revenues or appropriated or allocated state funds to install or replace outdoor lights or lighting units on state building or facility grounds that:

1. fail to maximize energy conservation and minimize light pollution, glare, and light trespass;

2. provide light that exceeds what is minimally adequate for its intended purpose; or

3. have an output of more than 1,800 lumens, unless it is a full cut-off luminaire.

The act allows five exceptions to the full cut-off requirement. It exempts lighting units (1) on the grounds of a DOC institution or facility, (2) required by federal regulations, (3) required for DOT storm operations, (4) required to illuminate the U. S. or state flag, and (5) in a plan for DOT facilities where less than 25% of the luminaires will be replaced.

The act also exempts a new or replacement lighting system from its requirements if the OPM secretary finds that a non-complying system is more cost-effective than one that meets the act's requirements. The secretary must determine this by comparing the systems' life-cycle cost analyses and certifying that a system that meets the act's requirements is not cost-effective or the most appropriate alternative.

The act permits the Department of Public Works commissioner or his designee to waive the full cut-off requirement for other state buildings or facilities when necessary. The commissioner must prescribe the form for the waiver request, which must include a description of the lighting plan, the efforts that have been made to comply with the cut-off requirement, and the reasons the waiver is necessary. The commissioner or his designee must consider design safety, cost, and other appropriate factors in his review.

KM:dw