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Light pollution tax

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#1 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 12:24 PM

A tax on light pollution might be a way to raise awareness, raise funds for dark sky initiatives, and deter light pollution.

 

I wonder if that type of legislation has ever been proposed?


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#2 barbarosa

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 01:03 PM

Man oh man, if this gets to my legislator I can see it getting through by a voice vote on the first reading. This is California, and we love the idea of moral, social, medical and environmental improvement through taxation. Your kids are fat, tax soda, cigarettes unhealthy so tax 'em, grocery bags despoil the planet so charge a fee. 

 

But of course when we tax we have to consider the poor, the humble, the down trodden, the historically disadvantaged, those with large families and of course any small business. Then there is the problem of lighting justice, poor areas lack good street lighting for safety and security.

 

Maybe this might be more complicated than I thought.

 

If we tax the lamps and fixtures the privileged class will just pay up, but the working class will grumble. The poor, or those who speak on their behalf will want equal distribution of lighting. Soon there will be light tax evasion, black market fixtures, and eventually mobs chanting "Light is right!" and "What do we want?" "Light!"  "When do we want it?" "Now!".

 

No the risk is too great. If we tax light, the market will falter, banks will go under, savings will be lost, China would be unable to buy our debt and the country would collapse. War and famine would soon follow. 


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#3 TOMDEY

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 01:07 PM

A tax on light pollution might be a way to raise awareness, raise funds for dark sky initiatives, and deter light pollution.

I wonder if that type of legislation has ever been proposed?

Hi, John; great idea! As far as specifics go, I'd favor something like a $1000 fine, 1st offense, and accelerate up from there. Maybe like speeding tickets, where any cop could tag you, and your power license would be revoked after too many offenses. Ummm... double the fines in Dark Sky Zones. Proceeds go to local astronomy club, who graciously sponsor the local militia, armed with cameras, radiometers, photometers, and Sky Quality Meters!

 

All other taxes/fines/etc. I'm staunchly against!    Tom

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#4 Kendahl

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 01:28 PM

I wonder if that type of legislation has ever been proposed?

It would be even more unpopular than a carbon tax.

 

Most people don't view light pollution as pollution. They view it as relief from darkness. I know a guy who is a ranger at a county nature area ten miles out of the city. Skies are Bortle 4. He and his wife live on the property. She is a city girl. The first time she stepped outside after dark, she exclaimed, "It's dark out here! We need to put in some lights." (He did install some but put them on proximity switches.)


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#5 tchandler

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 02:17 PM

Proposing a new tax in the US. That should go well. Even the suggestion might do more harm than good. So, what to do?

 

Writer Margaret Atwood once said that if the essence of the Unites States of America were distilled into a single word, that this word would be “frontier”. Ideas associated with the frontier include many good things: freedom, making hard choices for one’s self, and maybe even just simply being a good neighbor, even if that neighbor lives 12 miles away. The frontier may also include dark country skies filled with stars.

 

If there are words that express the opposite the of frontier, that word might be tax. This may explain why taxes are deeply unpopular in the US, in spite of the good they may do. 

 

This idea of frontier is powerful and this is what you would be up against. However, if you could somehow turn it to your advantage....


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#6 WoodyEnd

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 02:31 PM

Count me out.  I have little doubt that amateur astronomers that push the light pollution issue are (for the most part) considered to be a bit nutty. Add taxation onto that and we will be pariahs. 



#7 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 03:03 PM

Maybe a light pollution tax could actually be part of the "Green New Deal" that will inevitably be enacted?



#8 csa/montana

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 03:10 PM

Let's not go further into politics, please. Discussing legislation regarding LP is allowed, nothing more.


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#9 Wire

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 03:14 PM

About as stupid as the rain tax that was here in Maryland a few years ago. Fortunately the rain tax was repealed when new leadership was elected.


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#10 WoodyEnd

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 03:23 PM

About as stupid as the rain tax that was here in Maryland a few years ago. Fortunately the rain tax was repealed when new leadership was elected.

Out here in the West our governor says that taxing water makes it cheaper. Yes really.



#11 BYoesle

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 03:40 PM

Agreed, forget the tax idea.

 

The best approach to the issue of light pollution is that it is a public safety (glare from unshielded light sources, heavy blue rich light sources) and nuisance issue - you can responsibly light your property, but keep it off mine. Most people can relate to that. It then becomes available to be addressed by lighting codes - up to and including the state level. LED lighting has to some extent taken away the economic factors of overlighting and energy savings.

 

Secondarily it can become a scenic value, natural spaces and wildlife, or observatory protection issue if such features are nearby. Amateur astronomers and hobbyists generally are not considered a bit nutty, but instead a relatively small group of special interest enthusiasts and therefore are easier to dismiss when it comes to lighting code development.

 

Education is the first component needed to establish such codes, followed by community buy-in and adoption, and then appropriate enforcement.


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#12 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 05:07 PM

<snip> Amateur astronomers and hobbyists generally are not considered a bit nutty, but instead a relatively small group of special interest enthusiasts and therefore are easier to dismiss when it comes to lighting code development.

I have been an amateur astronomer since the 1960s, and YES, we are considered nutty, sometimes more than a bit.



#13 WoodyEnd

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 05:19 PM

So would we have tax collectors roaming the streets after dark knocking on doors?  Excuse me sir I see you have your porch light on, that will be $100.  I have heard of the ministry of silly walks but this would top that.


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#14 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 06:40 PM

So would we have tax collectors roaming the streets after dark knocking on doors?  Excuse me sir I see you have your porch light on, that will be $100.  I have heard of the ministry of silly walks but this would top that.

No, but I would like to see a tax or fine on unshielded lights of all kinds.


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#15 WoodyEnd

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 06:46 PM

I think that building codes for new construction and retrofits are the way to go.  Street lights are a government function which may make them easier to handle than millions of private properties.  I think that tackling the biggest sources will yield the most results.


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#16 Phil Cowell

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Posted 27 May 2019 - 08:47 PM

So would we have tax collectors roaming the streets after dark knocking on doors?  Excuse me sir I see you have your porch light on, that will be $100.  I have heard of the ministry of silly walks but this would top that.

There were a bunch of fire fighters who let a freeloaders house burn down because he didn’t want to pay his fire dept tax. I say go for it.



#17 kksmith

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Posted 28 May 2019 - 05:22 AM

I think that building codes for new construction and retrofits are the way to go.  Street lights are a government function which may make them easier to handle than millions of private properties.  I think that tackling the biggest sources will yield the most results.

The most intelligent proposal here. 

 

Ken



#18 BYoesle

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Posted 28 May 2019 - 07:21 AM

If you are serious about dealing with light pollution, you have to address more than municipal street lighting, even in a relatively small town, let alone a larger city.

 

Goldendale had 98% of its street lights with fully shielded 2200 K HPS before changing to 100% 3000 K LED. There has been no significant improvement in the level of light pollution, other than it has worsened with a broader spectrum. A large percentage of LP comes from businesses, and private residences with PUD light poles with "yard blaster" insecurity lights. Despite there being lighting codes in place since 1979, no one knows about them, and the City and Klickitat County fail to inform citizens about or enforce them unless there is a complaint.

 

imgp2832-arrowed_2.jpg

 

The City of Goldendale looking south from Observatory Hill. Fully shielded lights on the Puget Sound Energy gas turbine power plant - arrowed - produce far less sky glow than that coming from partially and unshielded lighting from other private businesses and public buildings in the center of town and to the east.

 

GOSP Yakima Herald Trinca.jpg

Associated Press ​Photo: Mason Trinca/Yakima Herald-Republic

 

“Light pollution from Goldendale, Wash. floods the sky on a cloudy night at the Goldendale Observatory State Park on Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014. The observatory, run by the Washington State Parks, is a dark sky destination for people from around the region, and is the only public observatory in the Northwest.” Yakima Herald-Republic
 


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#19 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 06:09 PM

The only thing that helps light pollution is a total collapse of an economy and a society.  Widespread blackouts.  Would anyone wish that?  There are several fairly recent examples in the world.



#20 Astroman007

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 08:25 PM

Most people don't view light pollution as pollution. They view it as relief from darkness.

Well, we do and we want relief from light.

 

How can such polar opposites meet halfway?



#21 Kendahl

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Posted 31 May 2019 - 11:27 PM

The only thing that helps light pollution is a total collapse of an economy and a society.  Widespread blackouts.  Would anyone wish that?  There are several fairly recent examples in the world.

Not necessarily. Targeted, well shielded lighting no brighter than necessary would accomplish the goal of such lighting without creating so much pollution. The classic bad example is LED home security lighting that points up into the sky as much as toward the ground.

 

 

Well, we do and we want relief from light. How can such polar opposites meet halfway?

The problem is we are a small minority with specialized interests not shared by the general population. I've tried to educate people on gun forums about the difference between illuminating every square foot of their property like a football stadium during a night game and lighting that's adequate to cover vulnerable places like doors and low windows. The reaction was

  • I want them to sacrifice their safety for my hobby.
  • My well shielded, 60 watt bulbs over the vulnerable spots are completely inadequate.
  • I should be grateful for light, paid for by my neighbor, that spills over from a his property.

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#22 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 01 June 2019 - 10:28 AM

  • I want them to sacrifice their safety for my hobby.
  • My well shielded, 60 watt bulbs over the vulnerable spots are completely inadequate.
  • I should be grateful for light, paid for by my neighbor, that spills over from a his property.

 

They have the viewpoint of total selfishness in my opinion.   It's very difficult to change their opinions.


Edited by John Fitzgerald, 01 June 2019 - 01:16 PM.


#23 Stargezzer

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Posted 01 June 2019 - 12:56 PM

Several posters have noted the environmental impact of lighting. In California any new development has to be reviewed to see if it is subject to the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act).Lighting, along with a plethora of other possible impacts, is included in this regulation. There is also a public review. Many cities, and counties have lighting restrictions . There is case law that addresses the negative impact of lighting as well (usually civil suits). Everyone needs to be aware of events where they can speak to this issue. The regulatory process is not a tax but the findings can require modification (costly) and or completely shut down the proposed development. Where I live the county had to completely modify bridge lighting so it would not impact animal transit under the bridge. The lighting was required to be positioned horizontally on the sides of the bridge and directed down onto the roadway only. 


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#24 csa/montana

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Posted 01 June 2019 - 01:14 PM

They have the viewpoint of total selfishness in my opinion.   You can't fix stupid.

Before I got interested in astronomy, I was also "stupid".  I had outside lighting.  Only when I became really interested in the night sky, after I moved here; did I realize that lighting would spoil the beautiful night skies.  It is not stupid, rather if someone is not interested in seeing the night skies, they use their lighting to make themselves feel safe.

 

So, yes John, you can fix "stupid"; depending on what a person's interests are.  And frankly, to call someone stupid because they do not go along with what we want, is a little disrespectful.  We are a minority, and have to make the best of our personal situations, regarding LP; but pushing it on everyone will not work, but actually make them dig in harder to resist.


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#25 John Fitzgerald

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Posted 01 June 2019 - 01:18 PM

Before I got interested in astronomy, I was also "stupid".  I had outside lighting.  Only when I became really interested in the night sky, after I moved here; did I realize that lighting would spoil the beautiful night skies.  It is not stupid, rather if someone is not interested in seeing the night skies, they use their lighting to make themselves feel safe.

 

So, yes John, you can fix "stupid"; depending on what a person's interests are.  And frankly, to call someone stupid because they do not go along with what we want, is a little disrespectful.  We are a minority, and have to make the best of our personal situations, regarding LP; but pushing it on everyone will not work, but actually make them dig in harder to resist.

In this era of reliable, adjustable, motion sensing triggered lighting, dusk to dawn lighting is not only wasteful, it is IMO, stupid.

 

Even LED street lighting could be motion sensing.  LED lights are not hurt by blinking, and have no "restrike" time, like MV, LPS, and HPS lighting has.


Edited by John Fitzgerald, 01 June 2019 - 01:20 PM.

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