NELPAG Circular No. 29

NELPAG Circular No. 29                                    2007 March 1

New England Light Pollution Advisory Group (NELPAG)
Editor:     Daniel W. E. Green     e-mail:
Secretary:  Eric Johansson         e-mail:

     NELPAG Circulars are issued at irregular intervals, 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



by Bernie Kosicki and Dan Green

Date:  Feb 25, 2007,  5:00 PM
Present:  Kelly Beatty (abbreviated KB in notes below), Dan Green (DG),
 Mike Hansen (MH), Eric Johansson (EJ), Bernie Kosicki (BK), Mario Motta
 (MM), Michael Ratner (MR)

[The order of information given below is different from the order in
which it was discussed at the meeting, and some trains of thought are
developed a little more for context than was the case at the meeting --
both to aid the reader who did not attend.]

1. NELPAG Organization:  KB proposed that, instead of a fixed set of
 officers, we adopt a Council approach.  The Council is the core NELPAG
 group that would make all organization decisions.  Any Council member could
 cite this in representing himself to public groups and testimony.

     For membership on the Council, one would have to commit to significant
work on NELPAG projects.  Council membership would continue until that
individual was no longer willing or able to do such work.
     Council membership was started with those who attended this meeting
(all of whom agreed to be members of the Council).  New Council members
would need to be sponsored by a current Council member, and membership would
be voted on by the existing Council members.  Council members would be
sought throughout New England.  The Council agreed to ask Paul Valleli and
Peter Talmage of Massachusetts, and Bob Crelin and Leo Smith of Connecticut,
if they would like to join the NELPAG Council, and this week (after the
Sunday meeting), all four agreed to join -- bringing the NELPAG Council
total now to eleven members.  (There was a discussion as to whether a
blanket announcement to all NELPAG e-mail recipients should be sent to
encourage others to volunteer for Council membership, or whether specific
individuals should be targeted first.)  There are no requirements for
general NELPAG "membership" (indeed, the concept of "NELPAG membership" is
very loose, since we have no constitution and no dues -- entirely volunteer).
There is no defined size of the Council, but BK suggested a maximum size of
about 15 members.
     KB proposed that, for procedural issues, a majority of the Council vote
would be adequate.  However, for policy issues, a 2/3 vote should be
necessary.  Attendance at the NELPAG meetings would not be mandatory for a
Council member, since the geographic distance between members would be large.
Voting can be carried out via e-mail.
     All attending the Feb. 25 meeting voted in favor of the Council model,
each saying that he was willing to be a member under the above conditions.
KB was voted as the Council Chair (the only official position), which is
effective for a year.  The responsibility of the Chair is to control the
agenda of meetings.
     We discussed the potential liability of Council members for the actions
of NELPAG.  Some potential liability issues might result from, for example,
compiling and publishing a list of "10 worst lighting sites".   We decided
not to proceed with incorporation or LLC status at this time.

2. NELPAG website:  KB handed out a proposed structure for the content of
 the new NELPAG website; it should do what the IDA site doesn't (we don't
 want to duplicate the IDA site).  One important piece of information to
 include is a list of cities that have light-pollution (LP) ordinances, and
 their contact points (also relevant State laws, and "Whom can I complain

     We discussed how to get a full list of towns that do have outdoor
lighting regulations.  KB proposed using amateur astronomy clubs in the
northeast as one source of this information.  KB will assemble a list of
all such clubs in New England, but will wait to contact them until the
new website is up and operating.
     Members should send comments to KB for suggested additions/changes to
his list.  There was discussion of the need for an "objectives" statement
     EJ said the software on the host server may be important.  He advocated
software that used a "Wiki" model, in which several people can access and
change content; this is easier and more efficient that relying on a single
webmaster.  There was general agreement that this model should be tried.
EJ's server has this capability, but most commercial sites do not.  EJ will
set up a simple experiment to let NELPAG members see how this would work.
KB will help to set up style.  There are three members of the "Amateur
software that used a "Wiki" model, in which several people can access and
change content; this is easier and more efficient that relying on a single
webmaster.  There was general agreement that this model should be tried.
EJ's server has this capability, but most commercial sites do not.  EJ will
set up a simple experiment to let NELPAG members see how this would work.
KB will help to set up style.  There are three members of the "Amateur
Telescope Makers of Boston" (ATMoB) who are willing to help with the website.
     EJ will also set up three classes of NELPAG-distributed e-mail:
one titled "Announce" will be initiated by only a few NELPAG Council members
and made available to the whole NELPAG discussion group; another class of
e-mails titled "Council" will be circulated only amongst the Council members.
The "NELPAG" discussion list has long been open to all interested individuals,
and many people outside New England monitor and participate in the discussion
there.  To join the list, look at the following webpage:

3. Ordinance:  KB proposed that NELPAG should generate and post on its
 website a simplified model lighting ordinance (SMLO) -- more simplified than
 the upcoming IDA MLO -- that towns without much experience in lighting
 regulations can use easily.  There was some discussion also of a need to
 explain the reasons for each clause, in addition to the clause itself.  This
 is important ammunition for advocates to explain and defend parts of a
 proposed ordinance.  One of the criticisms aimed at some existing ordinances
 is that they are vague and therefore not enforceable.  The art of writing an
 effective ordinance is to make it quantitative and at the same time simple.

     One principal part of almost all LP regulations is shielding.  KB noted
that the "full-cutoff" designation will be dropped by the professional
lighting engineers (IESNA) in the future, so the SMLO should probably not use
this definition.  Strictly speaking, any definition is fine so long as it is
fully and unambiguously defined in the bylaws/ordinances/laws, but it might
be best to use a term that is more readily understood by the general public
upon first glance.  A more general definition, which is not used by IES, is
"fully shielded"; however, this definition could just as easily be applied to
"full-cutoff", and "fully shielded" can have the unfortunate assumption of a
lamp fully enclosed (360 degrees) by an opaque shield, so as to emit *no*
light!  Perhaps "glare-shielded" is a better term.
     Enforcement is as important as the language of the regulation itself --
since without enforcement, the regulation is useless.  Enforcement should be
as simple as possible, and not depend on complicated night-time measurements.
Complicated and expensive measurements can discourage a town from adopting
a LP regulation.

3. Massachusetts State LP regulations:  Rep. Marzilli of Arlington refiled
 his old anti-light-pollution bill with the same wording as in the recent
 past.  In addition, following KB's suggestion, he also filed a regulation
 that would require Mass Highways (essentially the state's Department of
 Transportation, which has been problematic in terms of getting the
 legislation passed in years past) to do an assessment of its lighting
 efficiency.  NELPAG members individually aim to promote Marzilli's bills
 and explore other ways to effect statewide improvements in outdoor lighting.

5. Other:  EJ reported a discussion with an MIT staff member, who was
 enthusiastic about a suggested project to convert all MIT lighting to
 "shielded".  EJ will follow up with him.

6.  NELPAG meetings.  Physical meetings of NELPAG should be held every
 three months.  The next NELPAG meeting will be held on Sunday, May 6,
 at 5 p.m. (site to be announced later, possibly at MM's house).

     One suggestion is to hold some future meetings at astronomy-club
locations, to generate interest and understanding of LP issues among their
members.  Another possibility is to have a panel discussion at a future
ATMoB meeting; this is already under discussion, possibly for June or
September.  The idea is that each such meeting will hopefully include
four or five NELPAGers as panel members for a discussion with the audience
on LP issues, in lieu of a single speaker for that evening's "lecture".
     DG thinks that NELPAG should be a New England organization, not just
a Massachusetts one (although most New England action that we know of,
outside of Connecticut, is happening in Mass.).  While Connecticut has
established its own IDA section, with several very active members, the
other New England states have less organization with regards to fighting
light pollution, and even if "distant" interested individuals cannot
attend NELPAG meetings in the Boston area, there needs to be a New
England-wide group that is able to help isolated individuals.  We agreed
that NELPAG meetings should also rotate around to different states in New
England in conjunction with amateur-astronomy-club meetings, to try and
solicit more activism in our cause and to educate the public more widely
on the problem of bad outdoor night lighting.


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 -- or pay via their
website at