NYS Legislature Passage of Bill to Cut Sulfur in Heating Oil Is Key Step to Cleaner Air

June 23, 2010
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Isabelle Silverman, (917) 445-6385, isilverman@edf.org

(Albany, NY - June 23, 2010) Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praised the New York State Assembly for passing legislation today to dramatically reduce sulfur levels in the commonly used #2 heating oil sold in the state. The State Senate passed the legislation last week and Governor Paterson is expected to sign it into law.

Lower sulfur levels will help reduce acid rain, regional haze, and soot (particulate matter) pollution. Soot pollution is linked to asthma, heart and lung disease and can even cause premature death.

"This bill is a life-saver," said Isabelle Silverman, an EDF attorney, who co-authored EDF's December report: The Bottom of the Barrel: How the Dirtiest Heating Oil Pollutes Our Air and Harms Our Health. "Reducing soot pollution is especially important in New York City, where asthma hospitalization rates among children are twice the national average. However, phasing out the dirtiest grades of heating oil—#4 and #6 oil—is also crucial to dramatically reduce soot pollution because heating oil is responsible for more soot pollution in New York City than cars and trucks combined."

Starting in July 2012, the state bill (S. 1145-A/A. 8642) will reduce sulfur levels in #2 heating oil sold in the state by up to a thousand fold from the current range of between 2,000-15,000 parts per million (ppm) to the EPA limit for diesel truck and bus fuel of up to 15 ppm.

Eighty-six percent of New York City's heating oil soot pollution comes from only one percent—or nearly 10,000—of the city's buildings that burn #4 and #6 heating oils, according to the EDF's Bottom of the Barrel report.

Switching from #4 and #6 heating oils to #2 heating oil or natural gas would reduce soot pollution from these buildings by more than 90 percent. Although #2 heating oil can be about 10-15 percent more expensive than #6 oil based on today's prices, the EDF report concludes that best maintenance practices and low-cost efficiency measures can lower fuel usage by about 20 percent and save money. Natural gas is cleaner than #2, #4 and #6 heating oils and cheaper.

Low income buildings can apply for boiler and burner replacement funding available from the U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).