Myth: Noun. A widely held but false belief. A misrepresentation of the truth. (From New Oxford American Dictionary.)

Fact: Noun. A thing that is known or proved to be true. Reality. (From New Oxford American Dictionary and Thesaurus.)

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.” 

– Attributed to Mark Twain

There are a lot of myths circulating about the Santa Fe street lighting project. Here we cut through the myths to find – and, importantly, document – the facts

Myth or Fact Index

Click on a Myth to be taken to the Fact:



The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NM DOT) Requires Santa Fe Install 4000 K lighting on its major streets.

NM DOT DOES NOT require Santa Fe install lighting with color temperature greater than 2700 K on any city street.

On February 24, 2021, the NM DOT State Traffic Engineer wrote to the city Councilor Garcia that NM DOT was revising its old lighting standards  to allow 2700 K lighting on NM DOT roads. He added that as long as all other NM DOT safety regulations were adhered to NM DOT would grant a waiver to the existing requirement. You can hear Councilor Garcia read the letter from State Traffic Engineer Jian into the Feb 24, 2021 Governing Body meeting record HERE

PNM (Public Service Company of New Mexico) requires Santa Fe install 4000 K lighting on its major streets. 

PNM DOES NOT require Santa Fe install any particular lighting on any particular city street.

PNM sells power to individuals and cities, including  Santa Fe. Municipalities use some of that power to run their street lights. Some ask PNM to provide some of that power in the form of street lighting run and maintained by PNM. In the latter case, PNM has had a limited inventory of fixtures those municipalities could choose among.

This is not a requirement that cities light there streets using these fixtures, any more then shopping at your grocers requires you to read only those magazines on the rack at its checkout lane, and no other. Grocery stores are not book stores and PNM is not a lighting company.

Santa Fe currently contracts with PNM for approximtately 2/5 of the city’s streetlights. The city is buying new streetlights for PNM to install at these locations. The city is also taking over maintenance of these lights from PNM. PNM has agreed to install whatever Santa Fe decides it wants at all these locations. You can hear PNM give their happy agreement to this arrangement at the Apr 14, 2021 Governing Body meeting record HERE and, more succinctly, HERE

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission requires Santa Fe install 4000 lighting on its major streets. 

The PRC DOES NOT require Santa Fe install any particular lighting on any particular city street.

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (NMPRC) regulates the utilities, telecommunications, and motor carrier industries to ensure fair and reasonable rates, and to assure reasonable and adequate services to the public as provided by law.

For us, that means it sets the rates that PNM can charge for electricity it sells to cities like Santa Fe.

That’s all it does. 

The PRC does not regulate the kind of street lighting that a city can install. 

PRC “Rate 20” governs the rate charged to a municipality that receives service for street lighting and floodlighting system through special arrangements with the PNM. 

For reasons never explained, the Department of Public Works relied upon and misinterpreted a version of “Rate 20”, which had been superseded in early 2018. (Yes: 2018.) PNM and the PRC both have corrected the city on this point. You can access the current Rate No. 20 HERE. The important language is on the first page as bullet A:

  • Appendix A shall be a list a list of Company-owned LED streetlights … Appendix A shall be publicly available on the Company’s website and shall be updated periodically by the Company to reflect updates for operational substitutes currently available from suppliers.

The plain meaning, agreed to by both the PRC and PNM, is that companies like PNM are free to offer to municipalities any street light fixture that is available from a supplier.  You can listen to that agreement at the Apr 14, 2021 Governing Body meeting record HERE and, more succinctly, HERE

The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) has approved Santa Fe’s use of 4000 K (or 3000 K) lighting.

  • The IDA recommends that most light installations use lamps rated at 2200 K or lower outdoor lighting.
  • When higher than 2200 K lighting is selected, the total light emission should be minimized through low intensity, careful targeting, and reduced operating time.
  • The IDA’s role is to offer guidance on how decisions impact light pollution and recommend steps that can be taken to reduce light pollution.
  • The IDA does not “approve” or otherwise advise on lighting or lighting decisions. 

When the IDA was made aware that this myth was being spread and city officials, IDA Executive Director Ruskin Hartley wrote to Santa Fe’s elected officials a letter clarifying the IDA’s position with respect to lighting color temperature and the IDA’s role in providing guidance to cities. The first three bullets above are taken all but verbatim from the content of that letter. The last summarizes the letter. You can READ THAT LETTER HERE