The state of Washington may be about to take its first small steps toward addressing light pollution. While a bill creating a comprehensive study of light pollution failed to make it out of committee during this year’s session, proviso language in the supplemental transportation budget directs the Washington State Department of Transportation to begin taking light pollution into account in its planning.
The proviso, found in ESHB 2524, reads as follows:
Within existing resources, the department must evaluate how light pollution from state highways and facilities can be minimized while still meeting appropriate safety standards. Additionally, the department must evaluate how budget savings can be achieved through different types of lighting. To the extent practicable, the department must conduct this work in conjunction with other ongoing study and corridor planning efforts.
This falls somewhat short of HB 2057, which received a hearing (our coverage) before the House Environment Committee in January but never came up for a vote. That measure would have directed the state Department of Ecology to assess the environmental, economic, and public health effects of light pollution, and to submit the study and policy recommendations for reducing light pollution to the Legislature by next January. Yet it would a significant step forward: the transportation budget proviso language will probably be the first reference to light pollution ever to make it into state statute.
The Legislature approved the supplemental transportation budget on March 9 and the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate signed and delivered it to Gov. Jay Inslee the next day. By our reckoning, that gives the governor until April 2 to sign it. The Legislature is in the midst of a special session in an effort to finalize a supplemental operating budget for the state.
State Rep. Jessyn Farrell, who sponsored the study legislation and worked to get the proviso language into the supplemental transportation budget, tells us that the governor has said he will preserve that language in the final version of the transportation budget that he eventually signs.