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California’s Light Pollution Bill Is Back

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Pollution 400x275January 3, 2023

A proposed bill – jointly sponsored by Audubon California, the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, the National Parks Conservation Association, and the American Bird Conservancy – aims to reduce the amount of lighting on state-owned property.

According to a post by the National Audubon Society, Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-Santa Clara) has reintroduced an Audubon California-sponsored bill that would limit light pollution emitted by fixtures on state property. Assembly Bill (AB) 38 would require all outdoor lighting installed or replaced after January 1, 2024 to be dimmable and to have an automatic or manual shut-off device. AB 38 is a reintroduction of AB 2832, vetoed earlier this year by Governor Gavin Newsom.

“Light pollution is pollution, and it has harmful impacts on our ecosystem,” said Assemblymember Alex Lee. “According to an estimate by the International Dark-Sky Association, at least 30 percent of all outdoor lighting in the U.S. is wasted, costing $3.3 billion and the release of 21 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.”

Light pollution harms plants, vertebrates, and insects by disrupting breeding, foraging, pollination, and migration.  Light attracts nocturnally migrating birds and diverts them from safe migration routes towards human environments, where they are more susceptible to collisions with buildings and other human-made structures. According to some estimates, up to one billion birds die each year in North America alone from colliding with buildings. Excess light also has a deleterious impact on human health, and has been linked to sleep disorders, depression, cancer, and other adverse health conditions.

“Some 80 percent of migratory birds migrate at night,” said Mike Lynes, Policy Director for Audubon California. “Unnecessary and excessive light at night can severely disorient them and cause them to collide with buildings and other obstacles, with fatal results. AB 38 offers a practical and effective first step forward for California to conserve its biodiversity, save energy, and protect our natural night sky.”

AB 38 would exempt lighting necessary for worker health and safety or public health and safety including lighting used by law enforcement officers, firefighters, medical personnel, or correctional personnel.

 

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