EDF-led partnership plays major role in Mayor Bloomberg’s clean air win for all New Yorkers

PlaNYC air quality efforts achieve 69% reduction in sulfur concentration in just five years

September 26, 2013

NEWS RELEASE

Contact:
Mica Odom, (512) 691-3451, modom@edf.org

(New York, NY – Sept. 26, 2012) – From the Upper East and West Sides, to Harlem and the South Bronx, citizens of New York City are breathing dramatically cleaner air thanks to innovative environmental initiatives led by Mayor Bloomberg and a unique public-private partnership led by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

According to a new report from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), the efforts made by the city and its partners has slashed concentrations of sulfur pollution by a whopping 69 percent, nickel by 35 percent and fine particulate matter, or soot, by 23 percent. NYC Clean Heat, a public-private partnership that is converting building heating systems from high-polluting oil to cleaner-burning fuels, has been a significant driver in achieving these reductions. The city’s combined efforts have cut roughly 250 tons of soot since fall 2011, the equivalent of taking more than 800,000 vehicles off the road for an entire year.

The public health benefits are substantial – nearly 800 lives are saved each year, and an estimated 2,000 emergency room visits and hospitalizations are prevented annually, according to the NYC DOHMH. This amounts to a 25 percent reduction in all health incidents attributed to air pollution in New York City.

“This is an enormous win for the health of all who live and work in New York City,” said Andy Darrell, EDF’s New York regional director. “NYC Clean Heat is a practical, high-impact solution that serves as a model for cities around the world, proving that big environmental gains are possible when government, finance, real estate and advocates join forces to achieve a common goal."

NYC Clean Heat, which is part of the mayor’s sustainability program known as PlaNYC, seeks out and brings together resources to help buildings convert from highly polluting No. 6 and No. 4 oil to cleaner fuels. Working together, EDF and the Bloomberg administration brought together community and union leaders and innovators in policy, utilities, real estate and finance to address the problem. Approximately 2,700 buildings have been converted to the cleanest available fuels.

EDF helped develop NYC Clean Heat after releasing a study in 2008 called The Bottom of the Barrel, which showed that heating oil causes more soot in New York City than all of the city’s cars and trucks combined. Around the same time, the NYC Department of Health released first-time measurements of actual air quality at the neighborhood scale, showing that heating oil was the major reason that some communities -- like the Upper East and West Sides, Harlem and the South Bronx – had higher concentrations of soot and nickel than others. Buildings in every affected neighborhood have become part of the solution, from iconic residential coops like the Beresford to institutions like St. Barnabas Hospital in the South Bronx. The New York City Council and New York State both enacted key policies essential to the success of the program. EDF manages NYC Clean Heat in partnership with the city.

Map of sulfer concentration in NYC in 2008 and 2012

69% Reduction in Sulphur; Source: NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

The EDF Smart Power initiative is dedicated to scaling up successes like these around the country and world.

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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative public-private partnerships. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and our Energy Exchange blog.