2010-07-30 / Top Stories

City Aims To Improve Air Quality

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced an agreement on Intro 194-A, legislation that will significantly reduce air pollution, promote the use of alternative fuels, create new “green jobs” and improve the overall air quality in New York City. Intro 194-A is the first local law passed since the City Council and Administration started working on a legislative strategy to decrease environmental pollutants from New York City’s heating oil.

The Mayor and Speaker were joined at the announcement, held at the Metro Fuel biodiesel plant in Brooklyn, by Environmental Protection Committee Chair James Gennaro; Scott T. Santarella, president and CEO of the American Lung Association in New York; Environmental Defense New York Regional Director Andy Darrell; and Metro Fuel President Paul Pullo. “We all know the most costeffective way to remove pollutants from any fuel is to never burn them in the first place,” said Bloomberg. “But the reality is that New Yorkers burn more than one billion gallons of heating oil each year. By changing the type of oil we use, we will reduce pollutants and spend less money on maintaining and operating our heating systems, while simultaneously reducing our dependence on overseas sources of energy. But most importantly, Intro 194-A will complement the City’s PlaNYC initiatives and help us fight asthma, lengthen life spans and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods throughout our city.”

“This legislation will literally make us all breathe a little easier,” said Quinn.

“This week the City Council will vote to improve the quality of heating oil used in the thousands of buildings that contribute to nearly 90 percent of soot pollution in our city. By both reducing legal limits of sulfur and introducing renewable energy sources in home heating oil, we will greatly enhance the quality of the air we breathe and create new economic opportunities to foster the biofuel industry in our five boroughs.”

Air quality improvements expected from this and other sulfur reduction efforts have the potential to save hundreds of lives each year in the City.

Residual fuel oil burning contributes to the wide variation in air quality across the five boroughs resulting in poorer air quality and increased health risks in areas most affected.

These initiatives will have an especially great impact on the air and health of Manhattan and Bronx residents.

Under Intro 194-A, beginning on October 1, 2012, New York City will require the amount of sulfur in Number 4 heating oil to be capped at 1,500 parts per million, reducing the current cap by half.

Burning heating fuels accounts for nearly 14 percent of fine particulate matter pollutants in the air – more pollution comes from this source than from vehicles or power plants.

The particulate matter created by heating oil contains heavy metals and other pollutants that damage our lungs and hearts, contribute to asthma and significantly decrease life expectancy. Intro 194-A also would require that all heating oil used after October 1, 2012 contain at least 2 percent biodiesel fuel.

Intro 194-A, which applies to Number 4 heating oil, will also complement the new State law signed earlier this month by Governor Paterson that reduces the sulfur content in Number 2 heating oil by 99 percent. Number 2 heating oil accounts for over 70 percent of the heating oil used throughout the City.

New York City has already taken a number of steps to remove pollutants from the air we breathe. Thirty-five schools are in the process of converting boilers from using Number 4 and Number 6 oil to cleaner fuels – the first of 100 school boilers that will be converted over the next ten years.

The Department of Environmental Protection and the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability are working on a plan that will significantly limit the use of Numbers 4 and 6 heating oils.

And, the New York City Housing Authority has already converted to using Number 2 oil or natural gas in all of its 334 properties.

All of this advances us a long way toward one of the major goals of the city’s sustainability agenda, PlaNYC – having the best air quality of any major city in the nation by the year 2030, a spokesperson said.

Health Department surveys have shown that the greatest concentrations of particulate matter and other pollutants can be found in neighborhoods where a large percentage of buildings burn Numbers 4 and 6 heating oil.

“The New York City Community Air Survey, the first of its kind in any American city, found that lowgrade heating oil is a leading source of neighborhood air pollution,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner. “Poor air quality contributes to breathing and health problems, including inflammation of the airways, which can exacerbate lung and heart disease.

Cleaner heating oil will help New Yorkers stay healthier and live longer. We at the Health De-partment applaud these efforts to improve the air we breathe.”

Metro Terminal Corporation in Brooklyn is one of the first biodiesel manufacturers blending biodiesel with oil to produce heat and hot water.

PlaNYC was launched on Earth Day in April 2007 as a blueprint for achieving the Mayor’s vision for a greener, greater New York. Since then, the City Council and Mayor’s office have developed plans to change the City’s urban environment. New Yorkers interested in learning more about PlaNYC, or how they can reduce their carbon footprint, should visit www.nyc.gov or call 311.

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