Newsday: New state law cuts sulfur levels in heating oil

(July 20, 2010)

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July 20, 2010 by JAMES T. MADORE

ALBANY - Long Island's air will be cleaner starting in 2012 because of a new law reducing sulfur in heating oil, Gov. David A. Paterson said Tuesday.

He signed into law a bill limiting sulfur in No. 2 heating oil - used by most homes and businesses - to 15 parts per million, down from current industry and state standards of 2,000 parts and 10,000 parts, respectively. The requirement goes into effect July 1, 2012, but may be suspended temporarily if fuel supplies are inadequate.

The bill, sponsored by Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) and State Sen. Bill Perkins (D-Harlem), passed the legislature last month. Among the Island's 30 lawmakers, it was opposed by seven Republican state senators and supported by the two Democrats and all 21 Assembly members. It was championed by environmentalists, health care advocates and heating oil retailers.

Scott Santarella of the American Lung Association said: "We will improve our air quality and give New Yorkers . . . air that doesn't make them sick."

However, oil customers will pay more unless the legislature reconvenes to amend the new law. Paterson said the low-sulfur oil would be subject to the same 40-cents per gallon tax applied to low-sulfur diesel fuel used in vehicles. "It is critical . . . [to] ensure the tax exempt status of heating fuel oil is maintained," he said.

Air pollutants such as sulfur have been blamed for high incidences of asthma and cancer. "The plume of black smoke that now comes from many of New York's buildings is on its way to becoming a thing of the past," said Rich Kassel of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.