NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Praised for Phasing Out Highly Polluting Heating Oils

January 28, 2011

Isabelle Silverman, 917-445-6385, 
Andy Darrell, 212-616-1206, 

(New York, NY–January 27, 2011) Today, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a long awaited rule that will, over time, phase out permits for the most polluting grades of heating oils (No. 4 and No. 6). No. 4 and No. 6 oils emit up to 15 times more soot pollution than regular No. 2 heating oil or natural gas. Permits for No. 6 oil, the most polluting heating oil, will be phased out between 2012 and 2015 and No. 4 oil permits will be denied whenever a building replaces its boiler or burner. 

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praises the issuance of the DEP rule and, for public health reasons, urges buildings to switch to cleaner heating fuels even before they are required to do so under the new rule. “This is a huge step to rid the city skyline of the plumes of black smoke that choke our children’s lungs,” said Andrew H. 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. “By switching to cleaner fuels, New York City will prove that a mega-city can grow and clean the air at the same time.”

Close to 10,000 New York City buildings burn the dirtiest grades of heating oil (No. 4 and No. 6), 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. “It is an outrage that so much dirty fuel is burned in the heart of our most crowded neighborhoods – we simply cannot move fast enough to get rid of it,” said Darrell.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), natural gas prices are predicted to stay lower than oil prices for the next 25 years. EDF is calling for quick approval of the phase out. “Because upgrading to cleaner heat makes financial sense, EDF is urging buildings to make the change even faster than the rule requires,” said Isabelle Silverman, Attorney with Environmental Defense Fund. “Why keep wasting money and fouling the air?”

“The new DEP rule as well as new state and city heating oil legislation are predicted to reduce heating oil soot pollution by 40 percent by 2015 and by at least 65 percent by 2030,” said Silverman.

The following environmental and health organizations are supporting a rapid phase-out of No. 4 and No. 6 heating oil.

“This rule is a win for our lungs, our wallets and our economy,” said Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, who is also a member of the Sustainability Advisory Board. “Buildings can save money by upgrading to cleaner, cheaper fuels and less wasteful heating systems.” For example, buildings can take advantage of low natural gas prices and improved energy efficiency to cut their operating costs far into the future. Our thanks go out to the Department of Environmental Protection, Commissioner Holloway and Mayor Bloomberg for their leadership on this important environmental issue.”

“New York City’s Community Air Survey found that heating oil is one of the largest contributors to elevated levels of soot which endangers human health,” said Scott T. Santarella, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in New York. “For the sake of all New Yorkers who depend on clean air to breathe, this rule must be approved and adopted quickly.”

“The new rule will help millions of people citywide, especially the most vulnerable among us, breathe easier, said Peggy Shepard, Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

“The lives of eighty New Yorkers will be saved each year as soon as boilers are switched to burning No. 4. As the fuels gradually become cleaner, we will work our way up to saving 150, and eventually approaching 300 lives per year,” said Jason Schwartz, legal fellow at the Institute for Policy Integrity and author of “Residual Risk.” “For those at risk of acute asthma and heart disease, this new rule is a new lease on life.” The DEP rule and state and city legislation are also vitally important to help New York City meet federal health-based air quality standards and reduce the asthma hospitalization rate of children, which currently is twice the national average.