Letters To The Editor

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Lighting bill misrepresented by headline

I cringed when I read The Maui News Oct. 6 headline “Bill would dim isle night lights.” This is the opposite of what the Outdoor Lighting Standards Subcommittee voted to recommend, not dimmer lights but shielded light fixtures, so that all the light shines on the ground where it is wanted and not in people's eyes or the night sky.

People can use any kind of light they want until it trespasses on others' property. Shielding requirements are the way to solve that problem. See how much better vision is under Wailea's fully shielded street lights than the county's standard “fishbowl” street lights with their blinding glare.

Low pressure sodium (LPS) light minimizes the damage from the light that does escape and maximizes the brightness per watt of energy. LPS is not required where color rendition is needed, such as outdoor eating and sales areas or sports fields. Police have not reported LPS to be a problem in places that have LPS — the Big Island, Tucson and San Diego, in particular.

The subcommittee is focusing on new lights, but recommended that the proposed bill be later amended to deal with existing lights. Maui's current light pollution is cutting down the power of Haleakala's telescopes by almost half, interferes with turtle nesting, blots out the stars above Kihei and Kahului, and leaves many people blasted by their neighbors' lights or sports fields. But because retrofitting lights costs money, the recommendation is a much more complex policy than putting standards on new lights — which saves money through energy efficiency.

The lighting industry has never been concerned with the problems of light pollution, but dozens of communities around the country have decided it is time to regulate this industry and win their night skies back. Maui deserves to be among them, and with public support for the proposed new lighting standards, the beauty of Maui's starry night skies will return.

Come testify at the subcommittee meeting at 9 a.m. today in the County Council chambers.

Lee Altenberg, member

Subcommittee On Outdoor Lighting Standards