Austin, TX – June 16, 2021 – Scenic Texas announced this week that an important bill signed by Gov. Greg Abbott this week will bring the wonder of our state’s night skies to more Texans by making it easier for communities to pursue International Dark Sky designations.
Senate Bill 1090, authored by Senator Dawn Buckingham (R-Lakeway) and Representative Andrew Murr (R-Kerrville), was signed into law June 14. The legislation is effective immediately, allowing for communities to take the necessary steps in order to protect their night skies.
“It’s estimated that the Milky Way is no longer visible to fully one-third of humanity — including 80 percent of Americans,” said Sarah Tober, Scenic Texas President. “But cities and states are beginning to understand that we can play a role in reversing these unsettling trends, and we thank Sen. Buckingham and Rep. Murr for helping Texas lead the way in this effort. After all, the stars here in Texas are big and bright.”
Current state law protects existing International Dark Sky Association (IDA) communities but unintentionally did not allow for new dark sky communities. The new law allows communities that wish to pursue an IDA designation to be able to pass the necessary lighting ordinances.
In Texas, limiting unnecessary nighttime lighting ensures people will continue to enjoy the wonder of our dark sky, Tober said, adding that Texas has a number of recognized IDA certified communities that have passed lighting ordinances in compliance with global guidelines to protect the night sky from light pollution.
Senate Bill 1090 exempts lighting ordinances as long as a governmental entity adopts a resolution stating its intent to become an IDA community and regulates lighting in a manner that is not more restrictive than necessary to become IDA certified. The IDA defines light pollution as “the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light.”
“Most American children will never get to gaze at the stars and see the Big Dipper like so many of us did growing up in Texas,” said Tober. “Dark sky legislation like SB 1090 has the potential to improve light pollution – the most easily reversible form of pollution – and the health of our environment, wildlife and migratory patterns, driving conditions, and the overall health of Texans.”
Earlier this year, Texas cities like Austin and Fort Worth participated in the nationwide Lights Out Initiative, which works to protect billions of birds as they migrate across the U.S. In central Texas. Additionally, 15 of the 17 counties making up the Hill Country Alliance, an organization dedicated to the enhancement and preservation of the region, have passed resolutions supporting efforts to pass dark skies legislation.
Across the country, at least 18 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have laws in place to reduce light pollution. The majority of states that have enacted “dark skies” legislation have done so to promote energy conservation, public safety, aesthetic interests, and astronomical research capabilities.