NELPAG Circular No. 23 1999 March 31 New England Light Pollution Advisory Group (NELPAG) Editor: Daniel W. E. Green [M.S. 18; Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory; 60 Garden Street; Cambridge, MA 02138] (telephone 617-495-7440) e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Secretary: Eric Johansson (telephone 508-667-0137) email: email@example.com "Subscription" to this news/information Circular is available by sending self-addressed, stamped (currently 32 cents in the U.S.A.) regular-sized (9.5x4-inch) envelopes (SASE) to Dan Green at his postal address, or by sending your e-mail address to NELPAG-REQUEST@HARVEE.BILLERICA.MA.US (Internet). NELPAG Circulars are issued at irregular intervals, once every couple of months on average, as news accumulutes. Contributed information for this Circular concerning outdoor lighting problems in New England (or pertinent info from outside New England) are always welcome. Please circulate this newsletter to all interested parties. Look at our World Wide Web site at URL http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/nelpag/nelpag.html *********** LATEST PROGRESS ON MASSACHUSETTS PENDING STATE LEGISLATION Yesterday a hearing was held at the State House in Boston regarding the outdoor night-lighting bill that has been pending for some seven years now. As has been posted on our NELPAG website, though the bill (H.3418 = H.4449 = H.5069 in 1997) passed favorably through two committees in 1997, it was evidently not brought up in the House Ways and Means Committee for discussion (which presumably was the last committee to pass before a full House vote), and it died. Rep. James Marzilli (D-Arlington) has resubmitted the bill again, and in 1999 it is known in the Energy Committee as H.3990. Seven or eight people testified in favor of the bill today, including NELPAG members Mario Motta and Dan Green. Mario spoke convincingly about the hazards presented to motorists as a result of bad-glare (disability-glare) night lighting that comes from unshielded fixtures, and he also talked about the aesthetics of good fully-shielded lighting (and how such good lighting can raise property values and attract people) and about how upward lighting is a tremendous waste of energy and money. He also gave examples of towns in Massachusetts in terms of economics: Peabody (population 45,000) spends $3 million per year on streetlighting, a number that could be cut by 40-50 percent by using full-cutoff fixtures and lower-wattage lights; Townsend voted recently (according to a message from Mike Brown) to replace all their old mercury-vapor 100-watt lights with full-cutoff HPS 50-watt fixtures, saving $30/year per light. As a physician, Mario spoke on behalf of older people with cataracts, who suffer from glary lights at night because there is more light scattered in their eyes, leading to potential accidents; because of this, the AARP and the Massachusetts Medical Society have now given support to the pending Massachusetts night-lighting legislation (and Mario presented a letter to the legislature from the Mass Med Society on behalf of our bill). Mario also gave an example regarding aesthetics, where bright car-dealership lights in Lynnfield, MA, have reduced property values of nearby homes. [Mario has been the biggest driving force in pushing the anti-light-pollution bill through the legislature this year, and he is to be complemented on his enthusiasm and hard work. If the bill passes this year, it will in large measure be due to his help. -- Ed.] Dan talked about the history of the bill and about how the wording has been changed to make lighting engineers happy, and answered questions from the Committee about various problems, including a question from one Rep who said that a town she represented wanted to install decorative "historical period" lighting (to which Dan responded that lighting manufacturers have now produced numerous such decorative lights that have internal baffles that make the lights essentially full-cutoff, or at least semi-cutoff, fixtures). Rep. Marzilli gave some strong testimony in favor of the bill, and a man named Todd Lee, representing the City of Boston and architects under a program known as "Light Boston", expressed the City's support of the newly-revised wording of this bill; he pointed out that good lighting attracts tourists and enhances a town, whereas bad lighting drives people away! (At least three other individuals spoke also on our behalf, including a woman who said that senior citizens like her mother very much would like the opportunity to see the stars again, by way of improved shielded lighting practices, as they were able to do so much more easily as a child.) An executive committee meeting will take place next Tuesday (April 6), at which time we hope that the bill will be favorably reported to the Committee on Science and Technology. We have very good reason to hope for passage of this bill this year, so please contact your state represenative and senator to ask them to support and vote for this bill on your behalf. Contrary to some fears about the use of the term "Dark Sky" as applied to our bill, in terms of possibly suggesting a pet idea of a narrow-interest group, members of the Energy Committee stated that they thought this informal name for the bill is a nice touch, and they thought this bill is both a nice idea and a very different kind of bill from the legislation that they deal with on a daily basis. --- Dan Green, Mario Motta THOUGHTS FROM THE EDITOR, INCLUDING OTHER NEWS We congratulate the IDA on its 10th anniversary. I'm pleased to have been a part of this celebration by writing (with Dave Crawford and Kelly Beatty) a "Focal Point" piece on light pollution for Sky and Telescope a few months ago. The staff of S&T has been wonderful in getting out the word that light-pollution activism is important if astronomy is to survive the next century. Last year, a couple of S&T staff members asked me for suggestions as to how they might best be able to help the cause, and I suggested a full-page ad in which their normal advertisers would be asked to pitch in financially for support of the IDA; the result was a nice ad with more than two dozen sponsors on page 37 of the September 1998 issue of the magazine --- from which $5500 was donated to the IDA (according to the IDA Newsletter for June 1998, page 10). I'm pleased at the success of these two contributions of mine toward the IDA's tenth anniversary. My hope is that something truly wonderful will come of all this, in the way of vastly increased astronomer support for the cause. Also check out the September S&T for their comprehensive coverage of the IDA anniversary. And please also support the advertisers who paid for that ad! In November, it was great to see a cover-story by David Levy on the perils of light pollution in the newspaper supplement PARADE. I have written to TIME magazine to suggest that they include something on light pollution in their latest series of articles on the environment. Early in February, Jonathan McDowell (also of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory) and I were interviewed by ABC Nightly News for a story they were doing on the Russian Znamiya project, which was intended to unfurl a large mirror to direct sunlight down onto a wide area on the earth. We of course spoke of the potential peril to astronomy, and I posted information about this story on the NELPAG web site. Thankfully, the experiment was a failure (the mirror did not unfurl properly), but the Russians will surely try again. Condemnations of this project were issued by the IAU, the AAS, and the RAS. Joyce Harrington (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) of Hamilton, MA, has asked if one or more people involved with NELPAG or IDA could show up at the Ipswich (MA) River Festival on June 19, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Other environmental organizations that set up displays include Audubon, Greenbelt, Ipswich River Watershed, etc. Please contact Joyce if you are interested, and NELPAG can help supply some materials. It is good to get involved with environmental groups (provided that they aren't too radical!). I recently gave an interview to an editor of National Parks magazine, who was writing an article on good outdoor lighting in the national parks. Many readers have probably heard about the new thermal night-imaging system that General Motors is introducing into some of its Cadillac models. The idea is that optics will throw a monochrome infrared picture showing objects in and near the road for up to about 500 meters ahead of the driver. The potential here is immense, if the system can soon be brought down in cost so that most cars can take advantage of this technology. It, of course, allows much greater safety by permitting the driver to see further at night than normal auto headlights will permit [news story, in, e.g., NEW SCIENTIST 159(2150), 6]. And it immediately occurred to me that it could have the potential for reducing headlight intensities (or out-and-up directionalities/pointing), or at the least of preventing headlights from being made brighter than they already are. As was pointed out at our November 1997 NELPAG meeting, Japanese astronomers have found that car headlights make a huge contribution to the night-time sky glow. I think that our biggest problem is rapidly becoming the situation with residential lighting. Many readers have probably become painfully aware recently (as have I) with the fact that residential lighting is now increasing with halogen and HID lamps such as metal-halide coming to replace the once-universal incandescent lamp for porche and driveway-post lighting. And these extremely bright lamps are almost universally unshielded! When a neighbor put in such a light across the street, illuminating our yard and making our bedroom bright at night, I kindly asked if he could put a shield on it (even offering to pay for it myself). He said that would be no problem, but where could he get such a shield? I then spent considerable time going to retail lighting stores in the Boston area, which can be broken down into two basic types: (1) specialty lighting stores and (2) large retail "home-improvement" stores such as Home Depot or Sears Roebuck. None of them really had any cutoff fixtures for porch or driveway lighting! Not only that, but everybody I talked to said that this was the first time that anybody had asked for such home-lighting fixtures! I went even further. I found out from Sears who their seller was, and called Sears' corporate headquarters in Chicago last December to speak with one of their official buyers of lights for Sears stores everywhere. I learned again that this was supposedly the first time that anybody had contacted Sears headquarters to ask that such fixtures be placed in their stores; they were familiar with full-cutoff lamps, but thought that they were only used for streetlights! I was promised that they would inquire at future meetings with their representatives in the lighting industry, to see what Sears might be able to put on their store shelves in terms of full-cutoff residential lighting. So that's a big step. But again, if we don't actively pursue and follow up this sort of issue, we're likely to lose the war on light pollution, hands down. I don't have the time to contact every company. Every major lighting retailer and every major lighting manufacturer needs to be contacted, over and over again, to let them know that there is a sincere demand and desire for full-cutoff lighting for residential and small-business use. Oh, there are plenty of full cutoff fixtures available for sale, but most of them are so expensive that only large businesses (or governments) are likely to employ them for their outdoor lights. We absolutely MUST have full-cutoff lights made cheaply and widely available in stores everywhere! This won't happen without your help! A single bad residential or small-business light can be seen for miles. Especially here in the east, where atmospheric humidity is much higher than in the southwestern U.S., sky glow from a few lights carries over incredible distances. Somewhat like the war on drugs, if we don't eliminate the unshielded light, we won't win the war on bad lights. Once low-priced shielded lights are widely available, and once people start seeing how aesthetically pleasing and even practical such full-cutoff lights are (when compared with unshielded lights), the war will be won because most people will want shielded lights. But as anybody in the trenches of light-pollution activism knows, the average person on the street does not have any clue that one light can be better than another! They have to be SHOWN in order to comprehend. Dave Crawford has asked me to spread the word about an important international meeting on light pollution and radio interference: IAU Symposium 196 ("Preserving the Astronomical Sky") will be held July 12-16 at the United Nations facilities in Vienna, Austria. All interested individuals are invited to attend. A most successful IAU Symposium on this same topic was held in Washington, DC, some 11 years ago. More information is available at the IDA website: http://www.darksky.org/ida/iau196.html Paul Lutkevich, a professional lighting engineer who is actively working with the IESNA to develop formal recommendations that encourage the use of full-cutoff lighting practices (and who is also the Vice-Chair of the IESNA Roadway Lighting Committee), recently forwarded some of the language from the proposed IESNA RP-8 document entitled "American National Standard Practice for Roadway Lighting". Paul adds: "This document is currently in the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) public review period right now. If there are no unresolvable comments received it will become an ANSI/IESNA recommended practice in a few months." Here are some of the contents, from section 4: 4.0.6 Glare and Sky-Glow Issues Roadway lighting systems are under increasing scrutiny from various sectors of the public. While the general public is not usually aware of specific design requirements of roadway lighting systems, glare, sky-glow, and other aesthetic elements are widely perceived and open to criticism. The lighting designer should become familiar with these issues and be prepared to design a lighting system that meets the needs of the client/owner while also considering the effect of the lighting system on the general aesthetic environment of the area. An increasing number of communities are adopting lighting ordinances meant to reduce sky-glow (popularly termed light pollution). This action should put lighting designers on notice that this is a very important issue. There are situations (building facades, landscapes, and central business districts for example) in which lighting aimed upward may sometimes be required. Roadway lighting is not usually one of these situations. Luminous flux above the horizontal does not benefit roadway lighting but adds to glare and may be considered visual clutter. Luminous flux above the horizontal also adds to sky-glow. Many people consider sky-glow undesirable and even offensive. This is an immensely important issue with the astronomical community, professional and amateur, and is particularly annoying when equally effective lighting systems can be designed that reduce or eliminate direct up lighting. Unless it is essential to have luminous flux aimed above the horizontal, as mentioned in the situations above, non-cutoff fixtures should not be used for new roadway lighting. Non-cutoff fixtures inappropriately used may be considered a waste of energy. Roadway lighting fixtures should at least be semi-cutoff. Sag glass cutoff and full cutoff should be strongly considered. When it is necessary to have luminous flux above the horizontal, the designer should be diligent to keep the above horizontal flux as low as practical to accomplish the intended effect. This can be done by using lower wattage fixtures, by shielding, or by fixture design. It is generally not good practice to add glare shields to existing roadway lighting fixtures that are a part of a continuous lighting system. The addition of glare shields modifies the photometric distribution of the fixture and may cause an acceptable lighting system to no longer meet design standards. Fixture photometrics are rarely measured with external shields installed, hence, the designer will not know how a fixture with glare shields will perform. A qualified lighting designer should investigate the result of adding glare shields prior to their installation. It may be necessary to change the entire fixture rather than alter the photometric performance of the existing fixtures. Knowledge of this subject and implementation of design techniques to reduce or eliminate these problems will enhance the public=s perception of the professionalism of lighting designers and will benefit clients through a show of concern for their neighbors and the complete aesthetic environment. For further information on this subject, see CIE Technical Report No. 126-1997 "Guidelines for Minimizing Sky Glow" and IESNA Technical Memorandum No. ___. Paul Lutkevich further comments: "As far as disability glare we have addressed this problem by putting in a requirement for all calculation methods to evaluate the veiling luminance ratio (glare) of the lighting system and given limits for it. Information is included in the Annex of RP-8" (the text of which is being posted at the NELPAG web site). -- D.G. OTHER RECENT ACTIVITY IN NEW ENGLAND If you haven't checked out the NELPAG web site recently, have a look! It is updated regularly with lots of new information and links to good sources of proper outdoor lighting, containing lots of stuff that does not appear in these Circulars! One such item is a draft of the lengthy outdoor legislation put together by a group of amateur astronomers (apparently) from Manchester, NH, including Peter Bealo (e-mail email@example.com); this group may host a NELPAG meeting in Manchester in the near future, and we'll send notices around when we get a time and place picked out. Regarding the New Hampshire activities (which have been plentiful in recent months, as detailed at their World Wide Web site, http://www.mv.com/users/lopez/nhcrl/), Mike Stebbins (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote me the following last October: "New Hampshire Citizens for Responsible Lighting evolved out of the New Hampshire Astronomical Society, and the founders of the group feel that it would be more successful as a local group since NELPAG and IDA have made little in-roads here. . . . We are looking to write legislation and have some of the existing laws enforced. We have to have a timely situation, since the local cities and towns are having a push to add more lighting, some of which has been installed." They currently claim some 80 volunteer members. Also connected with the Manchester group is Mike Pelletier (e-mail email@example.com), who wrote the following to me last Sept. 15: "The group Intown Manchester is a business/city group of people that promote downtown Manchester. They are now considering putting up many lights downtown for publicity, security and the like. They also want to have the tall mill towers lighted so people can see them from miles around." Pelletier and friends have arranged meetings with these people, and we hope to report some of their results soon. Stebbins added today that their pending state legislation (which can be accessed from the NELPAG web site) will be sent to a study committee this summer. Meanwhile, the NH group has gotten the Manchester Planning Board to set up a sub-committee for studying outdoor-lighting issues, and a final presentation with recommendations for action is scheduled for April 22. Another contact with this group in NH is Steve Forbes (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org). We all wish them well in their efforts, and hope that NELPAGers both in and outside NH will help them in their cause. I have been informed by Bill Abbott that the Plymouth (MA) lighting ordinance (mentioned in previous NELPAG Circulars) has been successful and that they are now planning to extend additional restrictions on outdoor lighting into the bylaws of Plymouth. Mario Motta has given me a copy of a proposed outdoor-lighting bylaw for the town of Lynnfield, MA, which is being provided to the Lynnfield Planning Board. Early last November, numerous individuals alerted me to an article that appeared in the Providence Journal (and at its associated website) entitled "Let there be light: City envisions sparkling streets" and subtitled "A program is being launched to offer businesses incentives to illuminate their buildings". The article started out: "If city officials and a group of business leaders have their way, the 'City of Light' -- otherwise known as Paris -- could eventually have competition from a more brightly lit Providence. Think spotlights, floodlights, lights in trees, bright lights, dim lights, accent lights. In short, think of downtown at night highlighted in ways that transform it from routine city skyline into architectural delight. That was the image Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. and other civic leaders painted yesterday as they unveiled recommendations in a study called 'Illuminate Providence'. The $26,000 study, put together by the Providence Foundation and several members of the city's corporate community [including the newspaper promoting the story!], calls for the adoption of new guidelines that would encourage lighting in downtown and impose uniform standards for brightening the city. The new regulations would encourage downtown businesses to light up building facades, parking lots, noteworthy architectural details, parks, storefronts and even the city's skyscrapers." The mayor added that there are "buildings that stand silent and dark, with glorious details hidden by a nocturnal blanket, are lost until dawn. It doesn't have to be that way. The city can assist and give [tax] incentives, but this is a private sector project." I could see why people were alarmed! The tax incentives were intended to offset the expected high electricity cost, which the article says range from $3000 for a small building to "as much as $25,000" for large structures! My answer was to write a letter to the editor of the Providence Journal, which was also forwarded to the mayor. Here is a copy of my letter: To the Editor, Providence Journal: I have heard through the Boston Globe and the Internet (including your own web site) about the "Illuminate Providence" proposal, and I'd like to shed a different type of light on this glaring idea. Many, many people in the world -- including many in the Providence area -- enjoy the night-time environment without artificial lights permeating everywhere. Have you so quickly forgotten those wondrous sights that we were able to see in the last couple of years -- naked-eye comets known as Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp? Or how romantic a stroll under the stars can be? Surely our children deserve to see stars at night from their homes, just as they can see trees and birds in the daytime. But our ever-increasing use of outdoor lights in urban and rural areas alike is stealing away the natural wonders of the night, and this is an incalculable loss to our civilization. It is becoming harder and harder to escape from manmade controls and effects in our daily (and nightly) lives, and this effectively gives us less independence. It is a myth that more light reduces crime. In fact, I can cite cities and towns across the United States that have actually turned off lights (to reduce crime or to save taxpayer money for other purposes), where police officials report that pre-existing crime rates either plummeted or remained unchanged. Other police officials note that glary security lights can promote crime and be potentially dangerous to police officers, as criminals can actually hide in the shadows and be invisible because of the glary light pointing out in all directions. And a recent survey published in USA Today placed dogs, alarms, moving to a safer area, and having someone at home all as deterrents that were ranked above lighting by prison inmates convicted of property crimes. Having said that, I note that there are good uses for thoughtful outdoor lighting, such as around important street intersections. But we have been too thoughtless by permitting lights to be erected that are unshielded, permitting their glary light to stream out dangerously into the eyes of motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists, and to invade bedroom windows at night or the yards of amateur astronomers, young and old. Bad, glary lighting can and does cause accidents and promote crime. Thoughtful, full-cutoff lighting (where light is not emitted above a horizontal plane cutting through the bottom of the lamp) is becoming very popular around the country and the world as an aesthetically-pleasing and energy-efficient way of illuminating some of our environment at night. Buildings and monuments can be nicely enhanced by low-lumen, fully-shielded lighting that is recessed and/or shines downward and not outward or skyward. But lighting up buildings, monuments, flags, and bridges just for the sake of lighting them up is more likely to create ugly sights than aesthetically-pleasing sights unless careful thought is employed in advance. Most taxpayers do not realize that most streetlighting is paid for from their taxes, that usually there is no legal requirement mandating specific streetlights, that most outdoor lighting is highly inefficient (much of it even dangerous), and that towns and cities pay large monthly and annual bills to keep streets lit at night. My current home town in Massachusetts has a population of around 27,000 but an annual streetlighting bill in excess of $500,000 for electricity alone! Single cities like Boston spend tens of millions of dollars every year on electricity alone to light their streetlights, and I suspect that Providence spends many millions each year for the same purpose. An increase to lighting public buildings, monuments, and bridges is likely to incur large continuing annual costs in electricity to keep the lighting glaring. And promoting more energy usage and more night-time glare with the reward of tax incentives for businesses does not appear to be sound policy. I suggest that the City of Providence sit back and think for a while longer about its outdoor night lighting. It might be better to do something completely different, like implement an extensive outdoor-lighting ordinance that mandates: that all outdoor lighting above a certain lumen threshold (a minimum of 1000-2000 lumens is often used in such ordinances in other cities and towns) be fully shielded; that lower-lumen light bulbs be used to make light less glary; that all sign lighting be recessed, shielded, and mounting at the top, pointing only downward and only on the sign; that closed businesses turn off all signage and parking-lot lighting after a certain hour (like midnight); that floodlights be banned unless they are fully shielded so that their light is not emitted above the horizontal; and that non-security lights around other public edifices be turned off after a certain hour. With the new energy-efficient sodium, metal-halide, and fluorescent lamps now available, one can generally get the same amount of light on the ground simply by shielding a lamp that uses half (or even a third) of the electricity of older or existing unshielded lamps; these new lamps put out several times more light (lumens) per watt than did older incandescent and mercury-vapor lamps, but power-utility companies are loathe to tell the taxpayer that they are so efficient, and they often replace 200-watt mercury-vapor lamps with 200-watt metal-halide or HPS lamps, resulting in 2 to 8 times more light on the ground! A 35-watt HPS or metal-halide lamp is quite bright and is generally sufficient light for most streetlight applications. A good general rule is that if one can see an outdoor light bulb from 50-100 yards away, it is a bad light. Outdoor lights simply are not effective when one gets a certain distance away, so an unshielded light bulb above 1000 lumens becomes nothing but a glary eyesore when you have moved a few tens of feet away from it (where its light is no longer strong enough to be useful). Just putting up a lot of glary, bright lights is more likely to backfire on a city like Providence than to create huge benefits. Converting all the existing streetlights to full-cutoff and encouraging businesses to change all their lighting to full-cutoff will greatly enhance the aesthetic beauty of the city. Give tax benefits to businesses that make their places look attractive. It is possible to have an aethestically-pleasing night-time environment in any city that includes the ability to see hundreds of stars and even the Milky Way from that same city! Artificial lights alone don't make the night-time environment appealing in any way at all --- any good lighting engineer will note this fact. But once you see a nicely, not-overly lit area in which the source of the lighting in invisible, you quickly realize that a city or town (or business or neighborhood) can be made a much nicer place to live in or to visit. Then you begin to wonder why everybody doesn't put more thought into night-time lighting! Respectfully yours, Daniel W. E. Green on behalf of the New England Light Pollution Advisory Group (a volunteer group with members in all New England states) *********** The NELPAG supports the International Dark-Sky Association and recommends that all individuals/groups who are interested in the problems of light pollution and obtrusive lighting should subscribe to the IDA Newsletter. IDA membership costs $30.00 per year; send check to International Dark-Sky Association, 3225 N. First Ave., Tucson, AZ 85719 (NOTE new address!).