Reducing light pollution from oil and gas production in Texas skies


By: Steffi Lee

AUSTIN — As Texas continues leading the nation in oil and gas production, companies are trying to do their part in protecting the state’s night skies.

It’s a view that draws around 100,000 people to the McDonald Observatory in West Texas every year. They’re able to experience the galaxy in a sea of darkness that’s all around us.

“Light pollution can cause a negative impact to nocturnal animals in the form of feeding, mating, sleeping and even humans,” Joni Carswell, executive director of Texan By Nature, said. “It takes away enjoyment of seeing the Milky Way and our beautiful wide-open Texas night skies.”

Oil and gas groups have partnered with the McDonald Observatory to work on best practices for reducing light pollution.

“Of course the rigs need to be illuminated for safety,” Taft Armandroff, director of the McDonald Observatory, said. “We’re finding if you have standard practices of pointing the lights down and using the right kinds of lights, it really helps keep the sky dark.”

Ben Shepperd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association said companies have implemented the practice of pointing lights down.

“In addition to the reduced lighting, it helps with safety – helps folks to light more directly on the items you’re trying to illuminate,” he said.

Other recommended practices include using amber lighting instead of bluish-white lighting.

Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association, said “it is our responsibility to seek creative and efficient ways to protect our state’s great landscape.”

Texan By Nature also has a certification program that’s available where anybody who is following these recommended practices can apply to be recognized by the organization. It plans to host a Conservation Wrangler Summit and Celebration in October that will highlight projects like this collaboration effort.

Though this current partnership focuses on oil and gas production, the observatory and its partners hope these recommendations can be expanded to homes and businesses as well.