Dirty heating oil in New York City

Close to 10,000 NYC buildings burn oil from the bottom of the barrel

UPDATE (Nov. 29, 2012) - The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) promulgated a new rule [PDF] in the spring of 2011 that will phase out boiler permits for the most polluting types of heating oils (No. 4 and No. 6 oil). EDF advocated for a phase-out of heavy heating oil and helped shape the new DEP rule. Now EDF is working in partnership with the city on a free city program called NYC Clean Heat that helps buildings switch to the cleanest fuels in the most cost-effective manner.

EDF’s work on the phase-out of the most polluting heating oils, started with the EDF report, The Bottom of the Barrel: How the Dirtiest Heating Oil Pollutes Our Air and Harms Our Health showing that just one percent of New York City’s buildings, those burning the dirtiest grades of heating oil, produce more pollution than all the city’s cars and trucks combined.

The pollution produced by buildings burning No. 4 or 6 oil—some 1,000 tons of it every year—threatens the health of all New Yorkers, creating a rain of toxic soot that aggravates asthma, increases the risk of cancer, exacerbates respiratory illnesses and can cause premature death.

Close to 10,000 buildings, many in the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, use this unrefined sludge. The Flatiron Building (5th Avenue and 23rd St.) and The Dakota (Central Park West at 72nd St.) are among a number of iconic structures that burn it.

Building managers and owners can improve air quality and often lower operating costs by:

  • Switching to No. 2 heating oil, natural gas or both
  • Implementing efficiency measures

About the report

The report details the threat to our air quality and offers solutions to cut soot pollution from heating systems by over 90%.

The report contains:

  • policy recommendations to the city for banning dirty heating oil,
  • guidance for converting buildings to cleaner fuels and
  • proper maintenance and efficiency measures to help reduce heating fuel expenses, saving thousands of dollars a year.

Reference Documents

Report contents and links to each chapter

View the full report [PDF].



Download the full report

The Bottom of the Barrel (see below for chapter downloads)

Download now

PDF Format: Adobe PDF (5 MB)
What EDF is doing at our building

EDF’s headquarters are in a building that burns No. 6 oil (257 Park Avenue South). We have been working closely with our landlord to help them switch to cleaner heating fuel. The building is expected to switch fuel in the spring of 2013.