July 26, 2010 – An announcement today by New York Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council Speaker Quinn that they have agreed on legislation to cut allowable sulfur levels for No. 4 heating oil in half will improve the health of city residents, according to Environmental Defense Fund. The City Council is scheduled to vote and pass the bill (Intro-194-A) on Thursday. Once the mayor signs the bill into law, starting in October of next year, buildings burning No. 4 oil will be required to burn the new low sulfur No. 4 oil—1,500 parts per million vs. the current standard of 3,000 ppm—that will emit 40 percent less soot pollution than No. 6 oil.
“This landmark legislation shows that the mayor, the speaker and city council members care deeply about New Yorkers breathing cleaner air and living a healthier life,” said Andy Darrell, New York regional director and deputy director of Environmental Defense Fund’s national energy program, and a member of New York Mayor Bloomberg’s Sustainability Advisory Board. “It’s a great day for the health of all New Yorkers, but especially for children, senior citizens and people with respiratory illnesses who are particularly vulnerable to soot pollution. We urge city officials to build on this great achievement by requiring that No. 6 oil burning buildings switch to the new low sulfur No. 4 oil between next year and 2015.”
The legislation is vitally important to reverse the recent trend of the city consistently receiving a failing grade for its air quality from the federal government in recent years and reducing the hospitalization rate of children with asthma. It currently is twice the national average.
About 9,500 New York City buildings burn the dirtiest grades of heating oil (No. 4 and No. 6 oil), releasing more soot pollution than all cars and trucks on the city’s streets combined, according to the EDF report, “The Bottom of the Barrel: How the Dirtiest Heating Oil Pollutes Our Air and Harms Our Health.” No. 6 oil is the dirtiest grade of heating oil–unrefined sludge–whereas No. 4 oil is a mixture of No. 6 oil and regular No. 2 heating oil. However, up until now allowable sulfur levels have been at 3,000 ppm for both No. 6 oil and No. 4 oil, meaning that No. 4 oil has emitted almost as much soot pollution as No. 6 oil.
In a second phase, No. 4 oil also should be phased out when buildings need to replace their heating system equipment. This switch would ensure maximum clean air benefits without forcing buildings to replace equipment prematurely.
The recently enacted state law—requiring regular No. 2 heating oil to go down to 15 ppm sulfur levels—will reduce emissions from all No. 2 heating oil burning buildings dramatically. In addition, if all No. 6 burning buildings are required to switch to low sulfur No. 4 oil, New York City’s heating oil pollution will be reduced by 40 percent by 2015, which would be a remarkable achievement. Once No. 4 also is phased out, heating oil pollution will be cut by 65 percent compared to today’s levels.
This new law also require that all heating oil contains 2% biodiesel, resulting in about 20 million gallons of biodiesel replacing petroleum heating oil. EDF hopes that this law will help stimulate the local waste vegetable oil market and that more restaurants will have their cooking grease turned into biodiesel. From an environmental perspective, it’s best to use the local restaurant grease right here in New York City, rather than shipping it to landfills or even worse, pouring it down the drain illegally, which does tremendous damage to sewage treatment plants.
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