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Legislative Memo

BILL:

S.3003 (Marcellino) / A.6950-A

Support

SUBJECT:

Light Pollution

 

DATE:

May 27, 2003

 

The Business Council of New York State, Inc. opposes the above referenced legislation. This bill would, among other things, amend the Environmental Conservation Law and the Public Service Law by establishing stringent and overreaching standards for outdoor lighting, mandate the creation of "dark-sky preserves" in the state, and establish the criminal infraction of "light trespass."

Specifically, the legislation would add a new section to the Environmental Conservation Law, known as the "Healthy, Safe and Energy Efficient Outdoor Lighting Act", in an attempt to prohibit "light pollution" (defined as the adverse effects caused by outdoor lighting which causes "glare" and "light trespass" on another's property). The legislation broadly attempts to contain "glare" or "sky glow" (the illumination of the nighttime sky that results from the upward shining of light) by enacting very broad, far reaching and stringent limitations on entities that utilize outdoor lighting.

The bill would have a direct impact on the private sector, specifically commercial and industrial businesses, which utilize outdoor lighting programs for a variety of purposes, not the least of which is the safety and security of their employees and customers. The bill places the entities that utilize outdoor lighting for security purposes in a precarious situation. In efforts to provide adequate security or establish reliable conditions for work during evening hours, companies and individuals may face the potential for liability under this act. This legislation would create a confusing situation under which exemptions must be secured from local officials if "a compelling safety interest cannot be adequately addressed by any other method." Additionally, a penalty system is established under which those guilty of light trespass will be subject to civil penalties.

The codification of light pollution and light trespass, and the mandatory classification of levels of outdoor lighting, will result in risks to public safety, will impose significant unnecessary costs on local taxpayers and consumers (through the possible alteration of existing outdoor lighting and lighting fixtures) and will create a new and burdensome penalty system for those who violate another's "dark space."

The legislation would also require the Department of Environmental Conservation, with input from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, to develop a model comprehensive outdoor lighting ordinance that utilities would be required to send to all customers. The cost associated with this mandated mailing of "informational packets" explaining outdoor lighting standards would be borne by the utility customers in the state, not the government implementing this experiment in public policy.

For the reasons articulated above, we oppose this legislation.