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August 25, 2021   

Pittsburgh Introduces Dark Sky Ordinance 

Streetlights and newly constructed and renovated City-owned properties will comply with Dark Sky Lighting principles

 

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Mayor Bill Peduto has introduced a Dark Sky Lighting ordinance that aims to reduce light pollution and glare.  The city's announcement claiming "first-in-the-nation Dark Sky Lighting legislation" may be overstated, as many towns and cities across the country have introduced dark sky lighting ordinances.  Pittsburgh's actions, however, seem to be unique for a city of its size and in an area of the country where dark sky regions are scarce.

Under the ordinance, the city will adhere to Dark Sky principles requiring that all newly constructed and renovated City-owned facilities and parks comply with Dark Sky Lighting principles and mandates that all streetlights to be replaced as part of the streetlight retrofit utilize Dark Sky-compliant fixtures.

No details relating to lighting specifications were cited in the ordinance, but the city collaborated with the International Dark-Sky Association, Biophilic Cities Network, Carnegie Mellon University and local partners.

The announcement from the city reads as follows:

PITTSBURGH, PA (August 24, 2021) Mayor William Peduto and the Division of Sustainability and Resilience announced a new “Dark Sky Lighting” ordinance today for all city parks, facilities and street lights. Dark Sky Lighting is the use of technology, lower color temperature and shielding to minimize the use of outdoor lighting to only that needed for comfort and safety.  

Dark Sky Lighting reduces unnecessary light pollution and dangerous glare that can come from lighting areas for no specific purpose, called over-lighting. Over-lighting and light pollution can negatively impact the mental and physical health of nearby neighbors, visibility for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians as well as habitats for plants, animals and birds. 

Dark Sky Lighting supports the city’s Climate Action Plan commitment to increase energy efficiency to reduce waste and improve building operations. Under the ordinance, the City will adhere to Dark Sky principles for its newly installed or retrofitted streetlights, newly constructed and renovated park spaces and playgrounds as well as newly constructed and renovated City-owned buildings.  

Mayor Peduto was joined today by representatives of the National Aviary, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. All three major institutions have joined the City and pledged their commitment to Dark Sky Lighting principles in their facilities.  

"By introducing Dark Sky legislation, the City is further advancing its commitment to light equity, reduction of energy consumption, and elimination of waste in accordance with our Climate Action Plan goals. Our park spaces and City facilities should serve as the model for others to follow" said Mayor Peduto. "I applaud the institutions joining the City in committing to this important initiative and encourage residents and developers to join the City to adhering to Dark Sky principles."  

Mayor Peduto called on other institutions, companies and property owners to join in the Dark Sky Lighting principles commitment. The Office of Sustainability and Resilience will be compiling a guide for residents and businesses to scale and implement the principles on their property. 

The City of Pittsburgh developed the ordinance with assistance and support from the International Dark-Sky International Association, Biophilic Cities Network, Carnegie Mellon University and local partners.   

"Pittsburgh is the first city to take a principles-based approach to legislation, clearly aligning with IDA’s values-centered approach to lighting", said Ruskin Hartley, Executive Director of the International Dark-Sky Association. "The proposed ordinance presents an opportunity to adopt policy that is easy to understand, implement, and enforce. We foresee this approach serving as a model for other municipalities looking to effectively reduce light pollution." 

"With the newly adopted Dark Sky Lighting principles, Pittsburgh continues to shape its vision for a biophilic city that combines an emphasis on climate action with the creation of urban landscapes that invite a connection to the larger natural world," said JD Brown, Program Director, Biophilic Cities Network. "Dark Sky Lighting provides an opportunity for city residents to reconnect with the night sky while also providing critical relief for birds and other wildlife that call the city home."  

 

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