The Bill Signed by Governor Ducey to Extend Electronic Message Centers in Mohave County Includes Legal Protections Fought for by the Council and its Allies
PHOENIX, May 03, 2017 — Senate Bill 1114 sponsored by Sen. Sonny Borelli and Lamar Advertising and recently signed by Governor Doug Ducey, allows electronic billboards within a 40-mile radius of Bullhead City in Western Arizona. Working with the Arizona Astronomy Consortium, the Arizona Technology Council, was successful in negotiating an amendment with Senator Borrelli and Lamar Advertising that helped protect Arizona’s famed dark skies while still accomplishing Lamar’s economic development goals in Mohave County.
The Council worked for an amendment which limits the number of billboards to 35, caps the level of illumination to 200 nits in the newly approved area and restricts the areas the billboards will be permitted. With potential statewide implications, the amendment includes legislative intent language that encourages the advertising industry to try to minimize limit light pollution and to use modern and state-of-the-art technology to further mitigate the impact of the light from the electronic billboards
“The language of this bill allows Mohave County to have economic development in the form of electronic billboards but still helps protect our existing observatories, as well as potential future sites,” said Steven G. Zylstra, president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council. “Because they are among the top-rated dark sky areas in the world, professional astronomers flock to Northern Arizona and Tucson, second to only the star-filled skies from Mauna Kea in Hawaii, which is now built out to capacity.”
A study published a decade ago showed the industry had an economic impact of $250 million annually — not including the synergistic and strong optics sector — and has been on a sustained path of growth since. The University of Arizona’s astronomy program alone has brought in over $100 million in sponsored research support every year for the last 12 years. That figure does not include the substantial NASA awards to the UA Lunar and Planetary Lab (OSIRIS-REX) or to the Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.
“We’re pleased with the amended language in SB 1114 and thankful for the extensive work done by the Arizona Technology Council and Arizona Astronomy Consortium,” said Jeffrey Hall, director of the Lowell Observatory. “Artificial light at night is a threat to astronomical research, and it is crucial that we continue to protect the dark skies vital to Arizona’s thriving astronomy industry.”
On the strength of its still-dark skies, Kitt Peak National Observatory outside of Tucson recently was awarded major new research projects, representing investments of tens of millions of dollars by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and NASA. All these economic drivers are dependent on the state’s public commitment to protect Arizona’s valuable asset of dark skies.
For more information on the Arizona Technology Council and its Public Policy Committee, visit www.aztechcouncil.org.