Cleaning up New York’s dirty heating oil

Our campaign got the mayor's attention and got results

Black smoke from dirty heating oil in New York City

Black smoke from dirty heating oil is a common sight on the New York City skyline. We're changing that.

Credit: Patti McConville

In Harlem, one in four children has asthma.

That’s double the rate of the city as a whole, and four times the national average.

Although asthma attacks have multiple causes, air pollution from low-grade No. 6 and No. 4 heating oil is one trigger.

Just 1% of New York City buildings burn these fuels, but they put more particulate matter, or soot, into the air than all the city’s cars and trucks combined.

EDF has been working in partnership with the city on phasing out heavy heating oils in New York City. We have launched NYC Clean Heat which is a free city program helping buildings switch to cleaner heating fuels in the most cost-effective manner.

EDF started its outreach to buildings burning heavy oil in Harlem when we learned that Con Edison was laying gas lines for Columbia University to convert 70 buildings to natural gas. Close to 100 buildings near Columbia University will be able to tap into these new gas lines and convert to cleaner heating fuel preventing 25,000 pounds of soot pollution annually. The air quality improvement in that neighborhood will be dramatic once most buildings have switched to cleaner heating fuels.

Changing minds and changing lives

Isabelle Silverman shows Mayor Bloomberg the dirty heating oil

Isabelle Silverman presents Mayor Bloomberg with a sample of the polluting heating oil.

“When we learned that our building was on EDF’s dirty building list, we decided it made good business sense to convert to natural gas and stop polluting the air we all breathe,” says Jerry Cohen, a co-op board member on the Upper West Side.

Our campaign to clean up heating oil also caught the attention of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In 2011, after working closely with EDF and our allies, the administration announced new rules that will phase out No. 6 oil by 2015 and No. 4 oil by 2030.

The impact of that decision on illnesses such as asthma and heart disease could be “second only to our achievements in reducing the city’s smoking rates,” said Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner.

We’ve also worked with the city to launch NYC Clean Heat a program helping buildings with technical assistance and financing options that will help building owners convert to cleaner fuels more quickly.

“The clean air renaissance in Harlem is underway,” says EDF attorney Isabelle Silverman.

EDF has been a critical partner and resource in our efforts to make New York a truly sustainable 21st century city.

Michael R. Bloomberg Mayor of New York City
  • 300,000 Kids in New York City diagnosed with asthma
  • $3.9 million Annual health care savings from phasing out dirty fuels in NYC buildings

Our campaign continues

EDF is a partner of NYC Clean Heat. Contact NYC Clean Heat today for free resources to help your building switch to cleaner heating fuel.

Check our map to see if your building burns No. 4 or No. 6 oil fuel and then follow our guide to making the switch »