A bill has been introduced in the Washington State House of Representatives that would direct the state Department of Ecology to conduct a study of light pollution in the state and to make recommendations for reducing it.
The measure, HB 2057, is sponsored by Rep. Jessyn Farrell, a Democrat from Seattle. It has been referred to the House Environment committee, the chair of which, Democratic Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon of West Seattle, is a co-sponsor of the bill.
The bill is a simple one, just over a page long. It directs the department to “analyze the current extent of light pollution that adversely affects the quality of the environment, the value of property, and the health and well-being of the public.” It specifies that the study must evaluate, at a minimum:
- The risks to public health, well-being, and the environment posed by light pollution
- The locations in the state with the greatest prevalence of light pollution and the greatest impacts of light pollution on environmental quality, ecosystem function, and public well-being
- Policy options for addressing light pollution that have been adopted by other jurisdictions
The department would be required to report the results of the study back to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2017, and include recommendations for policy changes to address light pollution.
This is the first legislative look at light pollution in the state in six years. Rep. Pat Lantz, a Gig Harbor Democrat who has since retired from the Legislature, introduced a far-reaching light pollution statute in 2008, and Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia, proposed a similar measure the following year. The latter earned committee approval in 2009 but never came to a vote in the House of Representatives. The earlier measures would have required that all new lighting be fully shielded, and would have banned the sale and use of mercury vapor lights, among other considerations. It had strong support within the astronomy and environmental communities, but drew opposition from a variety of developers, sports teams, billboard operators, and gas stations. The state Department of Transportation warned that the cost of bringing highway lighting up to the new code would have been prohibitive.
The Legislature’s website includes the text of HB 2057 as well as the capability to comment online. Seattle Astronomy will continue to follow the measure, which must gain committee approval by Feb. 20 if it is to be eligible for continued consideration this year.